Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What is the Intent of the Alliance?

The Alliance for Education was started in 1995 during the tenure of Superintendent John Stanford. Like many things Superintendent Stanford started, it continued on after his death.

The Alliance, to me, was always for the business and community group folk. They were dissatisfied with the schools, John Stanford probably encouraged them to organize and voila! The Alliance. I think they did start out with their heart in the right place.

It has now morphed into a group that claims it looks for innovation and reform but it all comes from two places; the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. I'm not going to get all conspiracy theory here but yes, I believe that those two foundations (along with others; they're not alone) are frustrated/impatient/upset with the pace of education reform in this country. So, we have a lot of large foundations who basically want to change the face of education in this country through sheer force of will coupled with large amounts of money and power.

Money makes the world go round and bless these foundations for their interest and concern. But I'm not turning over the public education system to several influential foundations to tinker and experiment on our public education system and the children in it. These people at these foundations are not appointed nor hired nor elected.

Which brings me to my central issue. As you know, I joined the Seattle Organizers group to try to prod the Board into allowing parents and community more access to the teacher negotiations. Things like:
  • what are the Board's goals and ideas going into the negotiations?
  • when, before negotiations start, is the Board going to have input from parents/community on the Board agenda? Or will they have a public hearing to take input?
  • And, at the end, can they give us an understanding of what goals were met and what ones weren't and why?
None of that would interfere with negotiations and yet parents would feel they had input and did understand what the Board is working towards as they go forward. (FYI, no Board member is at the negotiation table but they do give input.)

Every single page of the teacher contract affects our child's school day. That's why we deserve to have some public input available to us and why we should know the Board's intent going in. They are our representatives.

So the Alliance has loosely been a part of the Seattle Organizers. (Keep in mind they have been interested in teacher quality/performance for awhile now ever since the NCTQ report.) The Alliance, however, declined, without explanation, to sign our document about community values. We were all a little surprised and disappointed but they still were part of the group.

Well, now we find that out the Alliance is forming its OWN coalition and going out to solicit community groups to sign onto their ideas.

Upfront let me say, there isn't a whole lot of overlap between the groups' positions mainly because the Seattle Organizers is about transparency around the negotiations and the Alliance is pushing for teacher performance measures. However, to learn that this is what they are doing, with strangely familiar language in their statement, made me very upset.

The people from the Alliance sat there at our group's meetings as we hashed out how we might try to get the Board to listen to us. How we might get more groups to sign on so that the Board would see how many parents and community groups felt strongly about the outcome of the teachers' contract.

And what are they doing now? Trying to co-opt us. Trying to confuse people by now having TWO coalitions talking about teachers. But which is which? And what does each want?

Thanks to the Alliance for this huge monkeywrench and their duplicity. Because that's what it is. They like to claim they don't work for the district but boy, this has the district's fingerprints all over it. Don't want parents and community in any way part of the negotiations? Want to keep them arm's length? Well, then cook up another coalition group so you can confuse everyone. That'll work.

Then, as Seattle Organizer points out, we have this Alliance "Teacher Quality Town Hall" coming up complete with these topics:

So in support of our students and teachers:
• What can we do to support teachers as individuals, professionals, and community leaders?
How can teacher professionalism include an acceptance of responsibility for student achievement?

That second bullet point? It completely and utterly negates any alleged support from the first bullet point. Help me out, tell me I'm wrong but if I were a teacher, I would find the second bullet point very disrespectful. Our teachers aren't acting as professionals? Based on what evidence? They don't accept responsibility for student achievement? Nowhere does the flyer mention parents, principals or the district leadership as also accepting responsibility for student achievement. Why not? Why is this burden all on our teachers?

So to the Alliance I say, you have tried to co-opt the Seattle Organizers but really it is you who is being co-opted. By the Broad Foundation, by the Gates Foundation, by anyone with money who will tell you what to do. And it stinks on ice.

The Alliance might just want to think about what this looks like from the outside.

Again I say, lesson learned.


seattle citizen said...

Ach, I wish I was organized, Melissa!

That bullet point cracks me up. Let's look at it another way:
"How CAN teacher professionalism include an acceptance of responsibility for student achievement!?" Impossible, you might say! Teachers aren't wholey responsible for student achievement, so how CAN we get them to accept (and meekly, one would hope) professionalism via achievement?

Nver fear, the reformers are here! They will use push-polls, leading questions and other supposed "survey tools" (and meeting flyers) to "get a feel for" the "input of the community," then just continue to push the agenda of their task-masters anyway...but their agenda WILL mkae teachers accept responsibility for student achievement, in toto, and they better thank the reformers for caring just so dang much!

I would urge anyone how is concerned about this group to contact anyone you know and ask them to a)not go to the meetings; they're a cover for already determined agendas; and b) contact the Alliance and ask them what the heck they think they're doing; and c) FOIA the Alliance, SPS, and Broad/Gates, or Gates/Broad, whatever, requestion ALL commmunications between various entities therein.

Charlie Mas said...

If a teacher can be held responsible for student performance, then shouldn't the principal be held responsible as well? And if the principal is responsible then isn't the superintendent responsible? So if the teacher can be fired for low student performance then shouldn't the principal and superintendent also be fired?

Megan Mc said...

I agree, Charlie. In fact, if Arnie Duncan is so sure his way is the right way, then shouldn't the buck stop with him for any school that doesn't perform after 3 years of RTT grants? After all, they are doing everything he prescribes right?

dan dempsey said...

The Alliance for Education is clueless. If they were so concerned where have they been for all the decade's worth of math nonsense.... Looking at the "Broad" and Microsoft Math/Science partnership complete with Steven Leinwand enlightening districts about great reform math choices ... it looks like they push the nonsense and then want to hold teachers accountable for not being able to make Cow Dung Shine.

What a crew ... these movers and shakers.... they likely brought us the 2007 gang of four directors as well ... it sure was not low income parents that gave Peter Maier $163,000 to spend on his campaign.

zb said...

"If a teacher can be held responsible for student performance, . . . ."

A friend recently returned from India, and a visit to Indian village schools. In India, teacher pay is linked to student performance (or, more accurately, test scores). The friend realized that this link has created a completely corrupt system (in the village schools, the perception is that urban schools are different, because the parents demand their children learn), in which the children cheat. It's endemic and almost impossible to stop, and creates 5th graders who theoretically know things they don't know.

I don't want to tar all Indian schools with this brush, but in the rural population, with poor uneducated parents with little knowledge of formal education (i.e. ones who cannot supervise the success of their kid's education themselves), the result of tying teacher pay to testing is ugly.

I care about the teachers, and their real professionalism, but that's my real objection. And, yes, you can say that we'll prevent cheating, at least the copying kind, but that means what -- security? cameras in the classroom? enforcement? Ugh.

zb said...

And, at the risk of being a bit obnoxious, I think this is why some of us were troubled by the report from the organization that you are a part of -- that it sounded like it'd accepted the Alliance/Duncan codewords of linking teacher performance to test scores.

Anyone calling into KUOW today? I feel like the debate on these issues is very game-able, with too many unsophisticated listeners and too many players (in the player sense of the word, rather than participant)

Charlie Mas said...

The Alliance was formed when a number of separate fundraising groups were joined together into a single fundraising group for Seattle Public Schools. Among these groups were those that did grassroots fundraising.

As a larger group, the Alliance found itself seeking larger donations. Over the years it has almost completely abandoned the idea of grassroots fundraising and depends now largely on corporate and institutional giving. Those large gifts can be very directed. With the recent economic downturn, the donors list has grown shorter.

Now the Alliance is little more than the local face of the Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While this "teacher quality" movement shows us one of the dangers of this situation, there is another that is harder to see. Now that the Alliance has abandoned the idea of grassroots fundraising, there isn't anyone doing it. There is no grassroots fundraising group for the District as a whole.

Individual school PTAs raise money for their individual schools, not for the District as a whole. There are some groups that make the occassional grant here and there for musical instruments at one school or another, but there is no fundraising group that collects money from people (as opposed to institutions) for use by the District to address inequities in funding.

Consequently, the inequities are growing worse.

The inequities are also growing worse as the District withholds LAP and Title I money for strategic initiatives. The inequities are also growing worse as the state (while claiming in Court that they DO fully fund public K-12 education) cuts funding.

The Alliance took over grassroots fundraising and then dropped it, so now it isn't being done.

reader said...

Charlie isn't the issue really that of principal accountability? I worry that this Alliance stuff is becoming a distraction. What we need to do is keep the pressure on Dr. Enfield to hold principals accountable for the well being of everybody in school.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, well put - is there anyone soliciting or donating money just for district use, contingencies etc, with no strings attached? Like the PTSAs often raise money and just hand it to the school for whatever purposes it sees fit...
The Alliance is not a fund-raiser for a "general fund" anymore, as you point out, it merely funnels money from outside interests into specific "strategic" implementations (oh, and our money, too: for instance, the money the district gave the alliance after the Supreme Court verdict and judgement....That's just the tip of the "public moneys into Broad/Gates/Duncan-Ariel/NWEA funnel" - when the whole system is in place, education will be contracted to these companies and then the flow of dollars away from schools and into stockholder's dividends REALLY gets going.)

Reader, I'm curious to what, and how, would you hold principals "accountable for the well being of everybody in school."
Could you expound?

seattle citizen said...

Anyone else have a security warning (unsecure website) come up when they clicked on the "comments" link on one of the main page's threads? I did. Strange...We've been hijacked by Them! Run away! THEY have the internet!

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of teachers, a friend fowarded me an email from "Mindstreams," an online purveyor of online education offered by "accredited institutions." The email focused on how to get an online teaching certificate and/or degree.
THIS is another result of "reform": Insta-teachers, in debt to banks because they've been convinced to take out loans....you know the story. Like that report that says these "tech school" promise people all sorts of stuff and pocket their money...Yet another rip off of the public teat (Pell Grants, etc, are folded into these finance packages.)

Here 'tis, with points indicated where I followed leads to websites on Mindtream's site:

"Mindstreams - your source for online education"
[picture of smiling teacher at desk, no students]
"...Would you like to:
Improve your leadership opportunities?
Increase your salary?
Earn an advanced degree or special certification?
Advance your career?
You may be eligible for up to $17,500 in Title I Loan Forgiveness benefits or up to $4000 in grant funds under the NEW TEACH grant program.
Let us help you achieve your goals.

• Completely Online
• Regionally Accredited Universities
• Assistance in Choosing the Right Degree
• Financial Aid / Scholarship Guidance
• Exemplary Student Support
Sign up to receive all of our
online seminar events and additional information. (button)
or call for additional information about Mind Streams numerous programs. 888.413.1940
Forward this email to a friend
Mindtreams 7227 N. 16th Suite 190 Phoenix AZ 85020"

[Do a search, Mindstreams, get this:]


"WE LISTEN: Mind-Streams’ Education Consultants are interested in getting to know you. They want to understand your desire for continuing education using an online setting.
Whether you are looking for career growth, salary increase, leadership opportunities, or simply the convenience and flexibility of a 100% online degree, our Education Consultants are here to listen to you
WE CONNECT: Based upon your education needs and desires, Mind-Streams’ Education Consultants will match you with the perfect online degree program at one of the many regionally accredited universities with which we have partnered.
At no cost to you, our Education Consultants will help you with the application process, order your transcripts, secure financial aid, and find any applicable tax credits or deductions to help you on your way.
WE EMPOWER: Once you have been accepted into your online degree program, getting started and keeping with it may seem like a daunting task. Our Education Consultants are with you every step of the way. They provide training to acquaint you with the online university setting, they help you find and buy your books for classes, and they are there to answer any questions you might have along the way.
There is over $100 Billion in Loans and Grants that are available for those going to school. Learn more about how Mind Streams can assist in helping you find Financial Aid for your continuing education."

seattle citizen said...

It tells us that the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU) accredits schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Goodle them:....Nothing on their website to show this organization, Mindstreams, is accredited. Not is there any info to show what schools Mindtream contracts out online learning to....maybe Whatsamatta U?}
[Back to Mindstream:}
Here is an example of some of the online degree programs that can help propel your career in the Education field and emerge you as a leader with K-12 Special Education.
Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education & Special Education
Master of Education in Special Education with Teacher Licensure
Master of Education in Special Education for Certified Special Educators
Master of Science Special Education
.....Special Education is classified as a high need area Nationwide. This means there are additional funding programs and resources available to individuals interested in pursuing special education. Specialized grants and teacher loan forgiveness programs support the ongoing efforts and progression in the high need area of Special Education. Mind Streams will help you learn more and help you take advantage of utilizing these funds and apply them to your continuing education...
With over 30 years experience in the education industry and a working partnership with a variety of Regionally Accredited Universities, Mind Streams can help! At no cost to you Mind Streams will:
Assist with University & degree program selection
Process your application paperwork
Pay for and order your official transcripts
Break down financial aid programs
Find potential grants and scholarships
One on One education and career goal consulting
Ongoing online degree support

seattle citizen said...


We have met the future: Standardized tests, standardized teachers taught online, students taught online, dinosuar teachers dead, turned to oil for the machine, a vast array of companies all set up to run that machine:
Basic teacher education;
Basic student education;
Basic digital bubble sheet scoring of both;
Basic degrees, worhtless without the deep and critical thinking that comes from hard work and peer review;
Basic dependence built by ladling debt over he heads of both teachers and students, as the students move up from 12 GLE to 13 GLE;
Basic knowledge of history and econ that is basically constructed in the text-book editing rooms of the machine;
Basic people.

seattle citizen said...

I couldn't find any links to Broad/Gates et al, but in a way that makes it more sinister: The very agenda they are bent on is being forwarded by the system we operate in, the system we've allowed to come to be. We have met the enemy and he IS us.

TechyMom said...

I have a very basic question...

Why is it bad for businesses to advocate for public schools to produce more graduates with the necessary skills to work at those businesses? That seems entirely reasonable to me.

Yes, schools should teach citizenship skills too, but that doesn't mean that job preparation isn't an important part of their mission.

Chris S. said...

Techymom, it isn't bad "to advocate for public schools to produce more graduates with the necessary skills to work at those businesses."

However, what these foundations do goes far beyond that. What they do is throw about million-dollar-bills with strings tightly attached. They give money to districts (e.g.seattle) for things they think will help (map testing) which must be further funded by taxpayer money (BTA III). They then fund studies showing the benefits of their intervention. If they can't find any way to spin success, which is rare (Gates & small schools) there is little press and they move on to the next great idea.

They have purchased the entire discussion about what works in education such that they can ignore what is known to work and pretend to have the only answers.

And the motivation is not limited to the desire for future employees, but for developing revenue streams. You might want to read up on the Education Market a.k.a. the K-12 Education Industry a.k.a. Knowledge Works "Learning Economy."

seattle citizen said...

Techymom, I fear that the "advocating for public schools" which some of these companies and organizations do is, in actuality, advocating for the eliminiation of public schools as we know them. In so doing, the temptation, blatant or subliminal, is certainly there to ignore or do away with that which is antithesis to the company's profits.

Additionally, the process is streamlined, good for the companies, bad for a true education that grounds an individual in thoughtful, creative, odd even ways of thinking. The coompany gains by getting an ignorant and compliant workforce, trainable, while getting the creativity and innovation aspects from any of the schools that can afford to create free thinkers. There are many schools, private schools or public schools that can afford, monetarily or politically, to thumb their noses at ol' Arne Duncan. And they do. These schools will produce the top echelons and the innovators, while the rest of the public system is reduced to mere job training sans the bigger picture.

seattle citizen said...

Here's new information from the Alliance's blog (alliance4ed@blogspot.com) about this new group they formed. What a hoot.
Here's the coalition they claim to have, to help them suck up to Arne Duncan and sell our souls for a few shekels:
“Our Schools Coalition...This coalition is a natural extension of the work the Alliance has been doing on teacher quality for some time now. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large, and as such is reflective of the Seattle Public Schools District constituency in these negotiations."

But note the scary
"•With [teacher] professionalism comes the acceptance of responsibility for results
The Alliance is in a unique position to leverage relationships with SPS to move this dialogue forward."

"This is a historic week in education reform in our state and across the nation.

The Obama administration recently announced that Delaware and Tennessee won hundreds of millions of dollars in the first round of Race to the Top funds. Combined, these states were awarded $600 million, which leaves $3.75 billion for Round 2.

This announcement shows that the Obama Administration is serious about rewarding states that take bold actions necessary to reform their school systems. Both states submitted applications that had comprehensive, statewide plans positively impacting all students with wide support from their respective unions and school boards. In return, Delaware and Tennessee will receive significant funding from the federal government to help increase student learning and close achievement and opportunity gaps.

Several months ago, Washington was not in a good position to apply for Race to the Top funding. But this past Monday, Governor Gregoire signed into law education reform legislation which gives Washington state a chance to secure Round 2 Race to the Top money.

Now that the legislation has become law, the real work begins. School districts across the state will now have a chance to sign on as partners with the state, and we have only a few weeks to put together a strong Race to the Top application that will be our blueprint for student success in the future.

Here in Seattle, the Alliance has convened the “Our Schools Coalition.” This coalition is a natural extension of the work the Alliance has been doing on teacher quality for some time now. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large, and as such is reflective of the Seattle Public Schools District constituency in these negotiations. Many of these representatives had constituents attending teacher quality forums over the past month. From these forums and from teacher focus groups, the coalition formed based on the following core principles:

•A strong teacher corps is the most valuable asset within any school system;
•Teachers are respected as individuals, professionals, and community leaders, and
•With professionalism comes the acceptance of responsibility for results
The Alliance is in a unique position to leverage relationships with SPS to move this dialogue forward.

All eyes are on Seattle as this is the first teacher contract negotiations taking place since the signing of the Race to the Top legislation. And not only is it the first negotiation, it’s happening in the largest school district in the state.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Coalition.

Mark Yango, Director of Communications, AFE

WV thinks the above post from the Alliance is spormse

Melissa Westbrook said...

Techy Mom, I agree. But business is far more interested in training than educating and there is a difference. How much more power does Gates have to influence the direction of education than any one of us? It's dangerous ground. Of course, we need trained AND educated citizens for our country to remain great. But it can't be one or the other; it has to be both.

MathTeacher42 said...

I have an obligation to the kids who come into my class everyday, to try to get them to try to learn some math so they can participate in the community and change the community!
I have an obligation to the parents and guardians whose kids come into my class!
I have an obligation to the community that is paying me!
I hope there aren't like any laws or anything about all this obligation stuff, cuz this is really going to interfere with spending the day surfing the web, eating bon bons, and napping.

/internet snark tag.

I hope there are bunch of people with powerpoints and fancy Ivy degrees to help us change our ways! They've done so well fixing the auto business and the steel business and the retail business and the mortgage business and the finance business and the defense procurement business...
B. Murphy

seattle citizen said...

Just found this excellent article about the folly of merit pay by Alfie Kohn, Education Week Sept 2003 (in three parts) Part I:

The Folly of Merit Pay
By Alfie Kohn
There's no end to the possible uses for that nifty little Latin phrase Cui bono?, which means: Who benefits? Whose interests are served? It's the right question to ask about a testing regimen guaranteed to make most public schools look as though they're failing. Or about the assumption that people with less power than you have (students, if you're a teacher; teachers, if you're an administrator) are unable to participate in making decisions about what they're going to do every day.
And here's another application: Cui bono when we're assured that money is the main reason it's so hard to find good teachers? If only we paid them more, we'd have no trouble attracting and retaining the finest educators that—well, that money can buy. Just accept that premise, and you'll never have to consider the way teachers are treated. In fact, you could continue disrespecting and de-skilling them, forcing them to use scripted curricula and turning them into glorified test-prep technicians. If they seem unhappy, it must be just because they want a bigger paycheck.
In 2000, Public Agenda questioned more than 900 new teachers and almost as many college graduates who didn't choose a career in education. The report concluded that, while "teachers do believe that they are underpaid," higher salaries would probably be of limited effectiveness in alleviating teacher shortages because considerations other than money are "significantly more important to most teachers and would-be teachers." Two years later, 44 percent of administrators reported, in another Public Agenda poll, that talented colleagues were being driven out of the field because of "unreasonable standards and accountability."
Meanwhile, a small California survey, published last year in Phi Delta Kappan, found that the main reason newly credentialed teachers were leaving the profession was not low salaries or difficult children. Rather, those who threw in the towel were most likely to cite what was being done to their schools in the name of "accountability." And the same lesson seems to hold cross-culturally. Mike Baker, a correspondent for BBC News, discovered that an educational "recruitment crisis" exists almost exclusively in those nations "where accountability measures have undermined teachers' autonomy."
That unhappy educators have a lot more on their minds than money shouldn't be surprising in light of half a century of research conducted in other kinds of workplaces. When people are asked what's most important to them, financial concerns show up well behind such factors as interesting work or good people to work with. For example, in a large survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute, "salary/wage" ranked 16th on a list of 20 reasons for taking a job. (Interestingly, managers asked what they believe matters most to their employees tend to mention money—and then proceed to manage on the basis of that error.)
Educational policymakers might be forgiven their shortsightedness if they were just proposing to raise teachers' salaries across the board—or, perhaps, to compensate them appropriately for more responsibilities or for additional training. Instead, though, many are turning to some version of "pay for performance." Here, myopia is complicated by amnesia: For more than a century, such plans have been implemented, then abandoned, then implemented in a different form, then abandoned again. The idea never seems to work, but proponents of merit pay never seem to learn.

seattle citizen said...

Folly of Merit Pay, Part II:

Here are the educational historians David Tyack and Larry Cuban: "The history of performance-based salary plans has been a merry-go-round. In the main, districts that initially embraced merit pay dropped it after a brief trial." But even "repeated experiences" of failure haven't prevented officials "from proposing merit pay again and again."
"Son of Merit Pay: The Sequel" is now playing in Cincinnati, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, and elsewhere. The leading advocates of this approach—conservatives, economists, and conservative economists—insist that we need only adopt their current incentive schemes and, this time, teaching really will improve. Honest.
Wade Nelson, a professor at Winona State University, dug up a government commission's evaluation of England's mid-19th-century "payment by results" plan. His summary of that evaluation: Schools became "impoverished learning environments in which nearly total emphasis on performance on the examination left little opportunity for learning." The plan was abandoned.
In The Public Interest, a right-wing policy journal, two researchers concluded with apparent disappointment in 1985 that no evidence supported the idea that merit pay "had an appreciable or consistent positive effect on teachers' classroom work." Moreover, they reported that few administrators expected such an effect "even though they had the strongest reason to make such claims."
To this day, enthusiasm for pay-for-performance runs far ahead of any data supporting its effectiveness—even as measured by standardized-test scores, much less by meaningful indicators of learning. But then that, too, echoes the results in other workplaces. To the best of my knowledge, no controlled scientific study has ever found a long-term enhancement of the quality of work as a result of any incentive system. In fact, numerous studies have confirmed that performance on tasks, particularly complex tasks, is generally lower when people are promised a reward for doing them, or for doing them well. As a rule, the more prominent or enticing the reward, the more destructive its effects.

seattle citizen said...

Folly of Merit Pay Part III:

So why are pay-for-performance plans so reliably unsuccessful, if not counterproductive?
1. Control. People with more power usually set the goals, establish the criteria, and generally set about trying to change the behavior of those down below. If merit pay feels manipulative and patronizing, that's probably because it is. Moreover, the fact that these programs usually operate at the level of school personnel means, as Maurice Holt has pointed out, that the whole enterprise "conveniently moves accountability away from politicians and administrators, who invent and control the system, to those who actually do the work."
2. Strained relationships. In its most destructive form, merit pay is set up as a competition, where the point is to best one's colleagues. No wonder just such a proposal, in Norristown, Pa., was unanimously opposed by teachers and ultimately abandoned. Even those teachers likely to receive a bonus realized that everyone loses—especially the students—when educators are set against one another in a race for artificially scarce rewards.
But pay- for-performance programs don't have to be explicitly competitive in order to undermine collegial relationships. If I end up getting a bonus and you don't, our interactions are likely to be adversely affected, particularly if you think of yourself as a pretty darned good teacher.
Some argue that monetary rewards are less harmful if they're offered to, and made contingent on the performance of, an entire school. But if a school misses out on a bonus, what often ensues is an ugly search for individuals on whom to pin the blame. Also, you can count on seeing less useful collaboration among schools, especially if an incentive program is based on their relative standing. Why would one faculty share ideas with another when the goal is to make sure that students in other schools don't do as well as yours? Merit pay based on rankings is about victory, not about excellence. In any case, bribing groups doesn't make any more sense than bribing individuals.

seattle citizen said...

Folly of Merit Pay, Part IV:
3. Reasons and motives. The premise of merit pay, and indeed of all rewards, is that people could be doing a better job but for some reason have decided to wait until it's bribed out of them. This is as insulting as it is inaccurate. Dangling a reward in front of teachers or principals—"Here's what you'll get if things somehow improve"— does nothing to address the complex, systemic factors that are actually responsible for educational deficiencies. Pay-for-performance is an outgrowth of behaviorism, which is focused on individual organisms, not systems—and, true to its name, looks only at behaviors, not at reasons and motives and the people who have them.
Even if they wouldn't mind larger paychecks, teachers are typically not all that money-driven. They keep telling us in surveys that the magical moment when a student suddenly understands is more important to them than another few bucks. And, as noted above, they're becoming disenchanted these days less because of salary issues than because they don't enjoy being controlled by accountability systems. Equally controlling pay-for-performance plans are based more on neoclassical economic dogma than on an understanding of how things look from a teacher's perspective.
Most of all, merit pay fails to recognize that there are different kinds of motivation. Doing something because you enjoy it for its own sake is utterly unlike doing something to get money or recognition. In fact, researchers have demonstrated repeatedly that the use of such extrinsic inducements often reduces intrinsic motivation. The more that people are rewarded, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. If bonuses and the like can "motivate" some educators, it's only in an extrinsic sense, and often at the cost of undermining their passion for teaching.
For example, a recent study of a merit-pay plan that covered all employees at a northeastern college found that intrinsic motivation declined as a direct result of the plan's adoption, particularly for some of the school's "most valued employees—those who were highly motivated intrinsically before the program was implemented." The more the plan did what it was intended to do—raise people's extrinsic motivation by getting them to see how their performance would affect their salaries—the less pleasure they came to take in their work. The plan was abandoned after one year.
That study didn't even take account of how resentful and demoralized people may become when they don't get the bonus they're expecting. For all these reasons, I tell Fortune 500 executives (or at least those foolish enough to ask me) that the best formula for compensation is this: Pay people well, pay them fairly, and then do everything possible to help them forget about money. All pay-for-performance plans, of course, violate that last precept.

seattle citizen said...

Folly of Merit Pay, Part V (ach, 'tis too long!):
4. Measurement issues. Despite what is widely assumed by economists and behaviorists, some things are more than the sum of their parts, and some things can't be reduced to numbers. It's an illusion to think we can specify and quantify all the components of good teaching and learning, much less establish criteria for receiving a bonus that will eliminate the perception of arbitrariness. No less an authority than the statistician-cum-quality-guru W. Edwards Deming reminded us that "the most important things we need to manage can't be measured."
It's possible to evaluate the quality of teaching, but it's not possible to reach consensus on a valid and reliable way to pin down the meaning of success, particularly when dollars hang in the balance. What's more, evaluation may eclipse other goals. After merit-pay plans take effect, administrators often visit classrooms more to judge teachers than to offer them feedback for the purpose of improvement.
All these concerns apply even when technicians struggle to find good criteria for allocating merit pay. But the problems are multiplied when the criteria are dubious, such as raising student test scores. These tests, as I and others have argued elsewhere, tend to measure what matters least. They reflect children's backgrounds more than the quality of a given teacher or school. Moreover, merit pay based on those scores is not only unfair but damaging, if it accelerates the exodus of teachers from troubled schools where they're most needed.
Schoolwide merit pay, again, is no less destructive than the individual version. High stakes induce cheating, gaming, teaching to the test, and other ways of snagging the bonus (or dodging the penalty) without actually improving student learning. In fact, some teachers who might resist these temptations, preferring to do what's best for kids rather than for their own wallets, feel compelled to do more test prep when their colleagues' paychecks are affected by the school's overall scores.
It may be vanity or, again, myopia that persuades technicians, even after the umpteenth failure, that merit pay need only be returned to the shop for another tuneup. Perhaps some of the issues mentioned here can be addressed, but most are inherent in the very idea of paying educators on the basis of how close they've come to someone's definition of successful performance. It's time we acknowledged not only that such programs don't work, but that they can't work.
Furthermore, efforts to solve one problem often trigger new ones. Late-model merit-pay plans often include such lengthy lists of criteria and complex statistical controls that no one except their designers understand how the damn things work.
So how should we reward teachers? We shouldn't. They're not pets. Rather, teachers should be paid well, freed from misguided mandates, treated with respect, and provided with the support they need to help their students become increasingly proficient and enthusiastic learners.

Copyright © 2003 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.

too long, WV needs a STENT, stat.

Joan NE said...

Following up on this quote from the League of Education Voters blog: "Now that the legislation has become law, the real work begins. School districts across the state will now have a chance to sign on as partners with the state, and we have only a few weeks to put together a strong Race to the Top application that will be our blueprint for student success in the future."

The Race-to-the-Top application for Washington gets points for how much support the districts across the state show for the state's RTT grant proposal.

How does a district show support? The School Board President, the Teacher's union president, and the district superintendent sign memorandum of understanding with the state, in which the district spells out to what extend they are going to cooperate with the objectives of the state's RTT grant proposal.

So here is a final chance to try to impede RTT in Washington State. The public and teachers cooperate in putting intense pressure on Seattle Public Schools Board, the Superintendent, and SEA president to refuse to sign an RTT M-of-U with the state.

I hope the SEA president has already decided against signing such a document!!

Anonymous said...

Does this sound familiar?

Huffington Post
"Please Hold for Mr. Duncan..."


seattle citizen said...

Good call, Joan....I hope that the word gets out and this RTT MoU is sent packin'

This farce has gone on long enough.

seattle citizen said...

Dora, that article about Duncan in Chicago sounds soooo familiar. It's deja vu all over again.

Hmmm...cram too disparate programs together....maintain silence.....say something to the media then do something else a day later...as district crumbles under your ministrations, move on to "greener pastures" higher up on the reform machine....yoicks!
Our fearless leaders.

Charlie Mas said...

If the Alliance wants to spend money to fund efforts to improve the District then they should help pay the legal expenses for the appeals of faulty Board decisions.

wseadawg said...

Note the strategically timed op-ed article from the UW-Bothell's Center for Reinventing Ed in today's times. Another mere coincidence, I'm sure. If it's all so benevolent, then why is it so strategic? Who is it that we must carefully outfox, undermine, and destroy in this multi-pronged, multi-faceted attack? Indeed, who is thine enemy?

TEACHERS! Bring forth the saviors of the NCTQ, CPPS, and the Alliance to save us from ourselves and slay those obnoxious union teachers who are destroying our country with their intellectual ways! May we cast them aside to make way for the new Centurions from the East: TFA! New Teacher Project! Alt Cert Teachers with online U of Phoenix degrees! Come forth, come all, and join the fight!

Next up, mailmen. Then meter-readers.

SP said...

Melissa says:
Nowhere does the flyer mention parents, principals or the district leadership as also accepting responsibility for student achievement. Why not?

reader said...
Charlie isn't the issue really that of principal accountability? I worry that this Alliance stuff is becoming a distraction. What we need to do is keep the pressure on Dr. Enfield to hold principals accountable for the well being of everybody in school.

Yes, Melissa & Reader--Holding principals accountable (and thus, the district) is a huge issue for many of our schools. The problem is, how can we trust that the district will do their job with their track record? Most of the focus has been on the teacher's contracts, and somehow the principal's negotiations are kept completely out of sight. Has anyone heard any news about the current PASS negotiations?

How will the new legislation change principal's tenure? What is the school board's role and responsibility towards principal oversight?

dan dempsey said...

I will attempt to express my understanding of the problem.....

SP referred to:

Nowhere does the flyer mention parents, principals or the district leadership as also accepting responsibility for student achievement. Why not?
{Could this be perhaps an attempt at honesty?}

reader said...
Charlie isn't the issue really that of principal accountability? I worry that this Alliance stuff is becoming a distraction. What we need to do is keep the pressure on Dr. Enfield to hold principals accountable for the well being of everybody in school.

Yes, Melissa & Reader--Holding principals accountable (and thus, the district) is a huge issue for many of our schools.

I have since January of 2007 failed to see any pressure brought to bare since the rejection of Raj.

Lots of talk, letters, testimony etc..... but Pressure ???? do not think so.

Note quantity of Lawsuits delayed and going nowhere due to crazy Superior Court judges refusal to enforce RCW 28A 645.020 and more.

Pressure ??? where ??? when expensive lawsuits go nowhere anyone seeing much pressure should be a member of the mirage watchers club.

The filing of the "Writ of Mandamus" at the Supreme Court level may be an actual "Pressure" worth watching.

Since "Writ" filing on March 26th and submitting proof of service on March 30th.. the attention of the SPS has improved {this attention would be evidence of pressure}

Note there was never the slightest attention earlier as district continued making decisions with no regard for RCW 28A 645.020

Now with all appealed decisions under very substantive attack in Olympia Supreme Court a first creditable pressure is now noticeable.

I predict that the SPS is so concerned that they will actually be able to provide an administrative record as required by law for their coming 4-7-10 NTN Contract re-do vote. Now that is a sign of pressure when SPS actually changes business as usual.

Of course this is a long way from truly substantive lasting change but it is a beginning.

The whole game changed on Feb 4 when Judge Spector changed the rules. Note original NTN decision was made on Feb 3 and is now on trash heap. District wishes that to go away so badly that we have 4-7-10 re-do as well as a double secret probation pretty please request to Judge Middaugh to defer required submission of Feb 3 administrative record from 3-25 to meaningless 5-7 date.

Filed Discretionary appeal of Middaugh decision, which granted 40 extra days, with Supreme Court on Thursday 4-1 (No April fooling around) also added Judge Middaugh to "Writ of Mandamus" on 4-1 notifying KC court of that on 4-1 as well.

dan dempsey said...

So here is what pressure looks like: Named as individuals and groups are all seven board members, the school district, the King County Superior Court, Judge Laura Inveen, Judge Theresa Doyle, and Judge Middaugh.

A "Writ of Mandamus is appropriate when public officials are not doing the job they are supposed to be doing.

The hope is that the Supreme Court will agree and order these folks to do their job. In addition the Court will give the heave ho to all decisions under appeal as those are indefensible as the required transcript of the administrative record is necessary for defense.

Yes I think we finally have their attention but for how long?

Donations accepted HERE.

Seattle just came up with $500,000 for fireworks in 24 hours courtesy of the bru-ha-ha run through KIRO radio ... I realize that fixing this SPS educational mess is likely not near as great a priority ... but I am trying to make some fireworks ... I really do try.

These fireworks will be required to get much change.

Since the likely do nothing SEA Union will not be filing an appeal I plan to appeal the Performance Management "planned fiasco" by the required 4-16-10.

I would love to See the SEA appeal... I'll give them a call.

Charlie Mas said...

Is that for real? Fireworks on the Fourth cost $500,000 and the money was raised in days?

What will it cost to get an intensive, extended and enriched program to bring students quickly up to grade level at Aki Kurose? How long would it take to raise money for that?

evision said...


Joan NE said...

I want my children's teachers to be accountable. I just don't want the kind of accountability that Seattle Public Schools clearly wants to provide to parents: high stakes testing and merit pay.

I want a way for teachers be held accountable to ME, as parent, but which does not interfere with their being able to exercise their professionalism, creativity, insights, passion for educating, and their compassion and love for children.

I want to know that my kids' teachers are teaching to the standards. And, if my child is easily meeting the standard, I want to know that my child has access to teachers and classes that will help my child to have appropriately challenging, enriching experiences.

(The fight for getting the state to adopt high standards, or getting the District to adopt higher standardards than the state's standards I view as a different, independent battle front.)

I would like it if teachers had to give evidence at least twice a year to me to show that my child is making adequate progress on the state standards for his/her grade level, and that my child is being sufficiently challenged by the curriculum and the teacher.

If my child is falling behind, I want the accountability framework to give me a reasonable expectation that the teacher will notify me, and then engage me in identifying obstacles to success and developing a remediation plan and an effectiveness monitoring plan for the remediation plan.

That is the kind of accountability I would like from the teacher.

I don't object to part of the evidence being RTI scores on the MAP, other standardized assessment scores, samples of student work, the teacher's personal observations and gut feelings, whatever. If standardized assessment causes my child anxiety, then I would want the accountability framework to allow my child to opt out without having to suffer penalties for doing so. In this case, I would want the accountability framework to provide for other high quality assessment options, so that I can enjoy the "academic assurances" that other parents are getting from seeing their child's standardized assessment scores.

I do not want the District coercing my children's teachers to teach to a test. That is probably one of the big factors that drives good teachers out of high needs schools (Isn't this what Alfie Kohn says in the quotation up above on this thread?).

I would love to hear what others feel would be constructive, fair measures of teacher accountability, if not what the District is already doing.

Then I would like to hear ideas for fair, constructive principal accountability. Several people here have said that principals should be held accountable. Now tell us specifically what you have in mind!