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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Alliance Survey

Update: Want some real insight into better teachers (and helping teachers with that effort)? Read this from the New York Times Magazine, Building a Better Teacher. Several readers here have suggested it and I echo it. Long but great. There are issues to be considered like how we educate our teachers (how we turn regular folks into teachers), the innate ability to teach, incentives etc.

I just finally got around to looking over the Alliance for Education survey called "Teaching Quality Community Survey". What were they thinking? (Sorry to be a little late to this party but I was out of town last week.) I'm not going to even provide a link. I answered every question "don't know" so I could read through the whole thing.

Just from a survey standpoint, it's a mess. There are multiple values in questions starting with the very first one. It's about (1) redesigning the salary schedule AND (2) eliminating coursework incentives AND (3) "reallocating pay to target the district's challenges and priorities." What?!? You can't write a survey question like that.

Question two has a classic "leading the reader" form using phrases like "redouble efforts" and "as attempted by the current superintendent". How does the reader know this actually DID happen? Also, the "latest" negotiations haven't even formally started; is the district showing its hand here?

And it goes on and on. "Gather teacher data so that teachers are equitably distributed among schools." So elsewhere they want to eliminate pay for more education for teachers but at the same time in this question they want to spread the number of teachers who do have more education more equitably among the schools?

They ask about using student performance in RIFs. That's okay but the minute you say yes, that leaves them able to say "ha!" X% of parents want student performance in RIFs." Without giving other options or the option to say it could/should be only ONE of several factors used in deciding RIFs, this is not a good question.

They also assume that all parents know what "super seniority" is, how many levels of choice there are for teacher effectiveness, how many hours teachers work now in a day and how long the instructional year is (and why a school might have less than that). People can certainly say they "don't know" the answer but then that leaves a lot of questions with a "don't know" answer.

There are very few questions that are not posed in a non-slanted or confusing form. I cannot believe it. I have to wonder if the Alliance really did this on their own or if the district helped them. One, because the people at the Alliance are too smart for this kind of survey and two, because the district's past surveys have been so poorly written and this sounds like them.

The Alliance is also having a series of meetings around this issue. I'll post these only because if you object to this kind of bias by a leading education group, you should go and let them know.

20 comments:

southmom said...

This just in from a parent regarding Rainier Beach High School: The cost of the extra principal they have hired (Lisa Escobar) will require that several teaching staff employees be laid off. This means that the district has recognized that extra support is required to stabilize the school, and that they are dedicated to "increasing resources" by providing additional administrative help, but they have not increased the budget for the school to compensate for these extra requirements.


The student weighted budget does not work for schools who are serving more than 60% free/reduced lunch children. $7,000 per child does not cover the cost of teaching children who have greater needs.

How will the district assure students who are assigned to RBHS that their "quality school" is comparable to other high schools in the district?
How do they plan to pay for it?
Budgets for 2010-2011 were delivered to schools on Monday, and RBHS currently has 500 students (I was told). How is the district compensating RBHS's budget today, in preparation for the students they can expect, but who are currently not attending?

I recommend that concerned parents do a "side-by-side" of the staff list at Rainier Beach and say,......Garfield and Roosevelt. It's a pretty compelling case for lack of equality, given that the student weighted assignment does not take into account how much more resources are required to teach kids living in poverty/first generation immigrants, etc.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Friends who toured RBHS this year were told by one of the staff (the person who led the tour) that they did not know if there would continue to be two principals at RBHS next year. She was quoted as saying that "Dr. Gary was the face of RBHS."

They said Ms. Escobar was brought in to develop a Performing Arts program through partnerships she had developed while at The Center School.

Still a lot of questions to be answered for parents who may find their children assigned there.

seattle citizen said...

I think it would be a good idea to find out who authored this absurd Alliance For Education survey.

hmmm....

My guess is either a) someone at SPS or b)one or more of "the gang of four": Broad/Gates/Duncan/NWEA

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Back to the topic...I agree with Seattle Citizen. The "survey" is so biased it is laughable. They did not even attempt to disguise their weighted questions/responses. You think by now the powers would be would realize that we are not stupid.

seattle citizen said...

Solvay,
The powers that be don't think we're stupid, they think we are easily led and well-conditioned by media and "reports" (such as A4E's recent "teacher quality report." Throw in weighted phrases about "teaching more hours" and "quality teachers should not be riffed" or whatever, and people will instinctively respond.
This is not preying on stupidity: it is praying on feelings and emotional responses people have to a carefully laid groundwork of pointing at teachers as problem.

Unless there is a counter effort to combat this disgusting campaign, we will see good teachers swept away, like happened recently in Rhode Island: Declare a whole school "failing," don't look at individual students or teachers, and sweep out all the teachers in the name of "reform." Now it appears that we are also sweeping students away, in the form of charters and magnet schools that open in what used to be regular public schools, sending those students who knows where, and bringing in a fresh crop of students (who choose to be there.) Some reform.

wseadawg said...

And did you know John McCain has a black child from out-of-wedlock?

Have Ralph Reed and Frank Lutz been in town recently? Shame on the Alliance. What a bunch of tools.

Central Mom said...

The Alliance survey is an embarrasment, period. Comments to this effect should be sent back to the Alliance, the District and the Mayor's Office.

For a more nuanced and thoughtful look at gaining measurable, reliable academic results in the classroom, read the NYT magazine's cover story from this week. Anyone interested in teacher merit pay, tenure, training, class size, etc. should give it a read.

"Building A Better Teacher"

wseadawg said...

SC: I call the Gang of Four Sundquist, Maier, HMM and Carr. I think D.D. means that too.

wseadawg said...

A little off-topic, but Mayor McGinn said on KUOW yesterday that our School system is "in distress" citing the dropout rate, and labeled people defending schools as sticking with the "status quo."

I wanted to call him and berate him for his ignorance. Our "school system" is not "in distress." Most schools are doing fine, and many aren't. Wholesale reform and Mayoral Control are on his plate. Be ready for it.

SPS mom said...

See the latest issue of Seattle's Child:

"Grading our Teachers"

http://www.seattleschild.com/article/20100305/SCM02/100309866/0/SCM0501

Lori said...

Who was asked to participate in this survey? And how did they identify those people?

Surely, they did not intend "average parents" to be able to answer these questions in any meaningful way because they are full of terms with specific education-related meanings that most of use don't know.

Super seniority?
Eliminate all lanes on the salary schedule?
Phase II hiring?

I suspect that it is a minority of community members who can have truly informed opinions on these matters.

Whatever answers they get from the poorly worded, leading questions will not be reflective of parents' wishes.

WenD said...

A4E, as wseadawg so beautifully said (or was it gavroche? Apologies if I'm not giving proper credit), launders donations and grant monies. Did a donor commission this survey, or is this just something they do as part of their drive toward, you know, engagement?

WV: Shingrog? Cotton Hill's St. Patrick's Day drink?

zb said...

"The powers that be don't think we're stupid, they think we are easily led and well-conditioned by media and "reports" (such as A4E's recent "teacher quality report.""

And, they don't think *we're* stupid. They think that the majority of parents, busy with their lives, worrying a bit about money, generally satisfied with their schools are stupid (and ignorant).

Any thoughts on how to nip the Alliance survey? Would it help for people to answer "don't know" to everything (i.e. decrease their valid response rate)?

Is there a comment form at the survey?

(And, no one really thinks that Arne Duncan designed this survey, do they?)

Melissa Westbrook said...

There is a place to comment at the end. My suggestions:

- write on the Alliance blog and tell them what you think (http://www.alliance4ed.blogspot.com/)

-write to the head of the Alliance, Sara Morris (sara@alliance4ed.org) and the President of the Board of Directors, George Griffin, III (george@g3-associates.com)

-write to the School Board and tell them to ignore any findings presented to them.

-write to the Mayor and City Council and tell them to ignore any findings presented to them

MathTeacher42 said...

Believe it or not, many math teachers are aware of language outside math - probably because our arena is so language dependent?

I find myself marveling at the skill they've exhibited at defining their agenda, and how successfully they've defined critics as troglodyte obstructionists.

I've seen this caliber of political messaging ONLY from the Reagan / Cheney / Bush administrations.

There is plenty of blame to go around with the systemic failures in education. I wish we were working to solve them. Obviously, 1 of the smartest strategies for those in charge of the failures is to single out 1 group still capable of standing up and pointing out that those in charge aren't being held accountable for much of anything!

B.M.

"It was a custom introduced by this prince and his ministry (very different, I have been assured, from the practices of former times) that after the court had decreed any cruel execution, either to gratify the monarch's resentment, or the malice of a favorite, the Emperor always made a speech to his whole council, expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known and confessed by all the world. This speech was immediately published through all the kingdom; nor did anything terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his Majesty's mercy; because it was observed, the more these praises were enlarged and insisted upon, the more inhuman was the punishment, and sufferer more innocent."
Gulliver's Travels, I

udubgrad said...

I could not submit the Alliance survey at the end because I refused to choose from their "top two priorities for bargaining." I disagreed with all of them. They didn't include "reduce class size" or "fund tutors for students" etc. They will only get survey results from people who agree with their NCTQ agenda. They've made a joke of themselves. Can you imagine them publishing the results with a straight face?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Udub, and that's the issue. I wrote to Sara Morris, the new head, and just asked her what happened. This all seems so odd and how anyone thought no one would notice how off this survey is flummoxes me. I was at a meeting today with people from different groups and most people agreed that it just was poorly written and that any results are tainted because of it.

seattle citizen said...

udubgrad, yes, many people will not submit because of the last "two priorities" list. Which means all surveys that ARE submitted will have two of those "priorities" selected, which means that none of the other answers matter, even if someone chooses "don't know" or "disagree" with them: the Alliance will merely use the last item ("priorities") to publish "results" that say everyone wants NCTQ stuff.
Sad, really...Pathetic.

seattle citizen said...

This survey exposes greater problems with A4E: They are extremely biased, and have a blatant agenda. They have lose all credibility as "supporters of education" in Seattle.
I've written our Mayor, the Seattle Ed dept and others - If they merely look at the survey they will see that this it true.

Unless....unless they have the same agenda.

Shannon said...

"Gather teacher data so that teachers are equitably distributed among schools." So elsewhere they want to eliminate pay for more education for teachers but at the same time in this question they want to spread the number of teachers who do have more education more equitably among the schools?"

Was it explicit that it was data on levels of teacher's education vs some other measure of teacher QUALITY or performance? I fear both, but wondered...