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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Teacher Contract Gets National Attention

Interesting discussion on the teachers contract at the Daily Kos. From the thread (italics mine, bold theirs):

Wednesday afternoon the Seattle teachers' union (SEA) achieved a huge victory over the proponents of what is popularly (and erroneously) known as "education reform."

After many, many hours of hard negotiations, the SEA negotiators achieved a tentative contract with the district. What is remarkable about this contract is that:

* Teachers' final evaluations will not depend on student test scores. * Teachers' jobs will not depend on student test scores. * Teachers' pay will not depend on student test scores.

This tentative agreement was reached despite intensive efforts by the Broad-Foundation-connected superintendent to insert test scores into all three of the above areas.

And actually, it is a real victory for the teachers (in terms of ridding themselves of what they did not want in the contract) and anyone who does not support the ed-reform push by wealthy foundations and the DOE.

The descriptions about Seattle are fun to read (do we agree?):

MHO, Seattle is the epitome of a live-and-let-live, can't-we-all-just-get-along kind of city. In this vein, there is a well-established historical tradition of amicable dealings between the Seattle Public Schools administration and the union (in fact, the late superintendent John Stanford has all but been canonized as a saint in this city).

That is, until the current superintendent came on board.

Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is Seattle's version of Michelle Rhee. I'm sure she would consider that comparison quite a compliment.

The thread does lay out the issue that there has been a joint union and district task force working on teacher evaluations for two years.

Here's their analysis (italics mine, bold theirs):

But Seattle teachers had three advantages coming into this battle, which put them in a uniquely advantageous position to try to fight back.

First, as noted above, there was already a well-designed plan that had been jointly negotiated by representatives of both sides.

Second, Seattle is a well-educated, very blue city that largely supports public education and public school teachers. That support is not universal; there is a substantial portion of public commentary that focuses on the red herring of how important it is to be able to fire all the horrible, terrible, very bad teachers who are sitting in their classrooms eating bon-bons while our children drown in ignorance. Still, those comments are countered by many articulate, well-informed and thoughtful responses by the supporters of public education.

But the Seattle teachers' third advantage was the one that was really unique: a very specific set of facts that undermined the superintendent's ability to insist upon using test scores to evaluate teachers. Months after she spent a considerable chunk of district money to bring in a new computerized testing program -- part of what she advocated using to evaluate teachers -- it was disclosed that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson sits on the Board of Directors of the company that produces the test. The company that was awarded a no-bid contract to supply testing services to the Seattle Public Schools.

One thing I might add as I have been talking with other people is that there is some belief that the district (and the Board) is mighty worried about the levy (and well they should be - there is a lot going against it). I think there is an understanding about how much having teachers support and work for the levy is important to winning. I don't know if there is some tacit agreement that the union will support the levy (and that support turns into teacher turnout to work for it) but maybe that was in there.

What is still puzzling is that part of the contract revolves around winning the levy and/or getting federal grants. Neither is guaranteed. So why sign a contract if what's in it might not come to pass? Oh. So maybe none of the money issues in the contract matter a whole lot to teachers? Maybe it's just a sop to the ed reformers ("see, there is merit pay in there").

43 comments:

Arnold said...

Don't think the public is educated. I've found few teachers that realize the District will be facing another 28 million short fall next year...then what? We need to educate the public.

ttln said...
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ttln said...

I keep wondering what the definition of "not" is. How can the word "not" be used if it is test scores/achievement data that sets the more strict of the two evaluation models in motion? That, to me, says that scores ARE being used to evaluate teachers and buildings.

Is "not" being used because they aren't going to ding a pay check? decrease a budget? Or because it only affects the jobs of the 3-8 math and reading/la teachers? Please, somebody, explain how scores are "not" being used?(considered is used... technically)

How is "not" being defined? If it is the trigger for actions by principals or the district, then essentially, NOT ain't right.

Dorothy Neville said...

Regarding the levy. I just found out that when the King County Democrats held their August meeting to discuss endorsements, someone from SEA heavily lobbied that they not address the Levy until after the contract was finished. We will now see what SEA does with respect to the levy.

I just posted a summary of what the SchoolsFirst president said last night in support of the levy.

Joan NE said...

This report is strange. I read the tentative agreement. I think the report is plain wrong. It may be that someone is sending out disinformation about this agreement, in order to trick teachers to voting for it.

Anonymous said...
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dan dempsey said...

I would be very careful about following the SEA or WEA leadership. These folks were supporters of SB6696 and big boosters for Race to the Top.

I am with Joan NE certainly the reporting needs to be improved. Me I see shades of trickery. No one has yet to show that MAP testing is suitable for anything.

ParentofThree said...

Wow...it is interesting how everybody and their brother thinks the NWEA no-bid contract, sit on the board, spend $$$$$$$ on their product, try to tie the test to the teachers is a HUGE conflict of interest, but the board.

It's embarassing.

seattle citizen said...

It appears that the certificated contract was approved by the union rank and file this evening. It seems, though, that the Saeop (sp?) and parapro contracts (classified staff, secretaries, IAs, et al) did not have a quorum, so voting on those will have to wait.

The rank and file also, apparently, overwhelmingly voted "no confidence" in the superintendent.

seattle citizen said...

I've heard it said that the difference regarding using test scores is that the district wanted to make them an actual percentage of a teacher's evaluation: I tink the number was 25%, so 75% would be other evaluatory tools, while 25% would be the "student growth" number.

It's said that the contract as approved uses "student growth" (MAP, HSPE etc) to trigger principal action, specifically more observation and a "discussion" about why the scores are low, perhaps resulting in a determination of a "General" eval teacher being moved to the lower "comprehensive"(more intense) category, which might entail a growth plan and/or probation. So the test scores don't directly count towards evaluation but could trigger "actions."

I am disappointed that the tests were left in the contract at all, as it lends unwarranted credence to them as effective as directly tying teaching to learning, but overall it is an enormous victory over what the district wanted.

seattle citizen said...

Of course, lots is dependent on the levey: If the levy doesn't pass, the district will not have money to strengthen (expand...continue?) the MAP program.

Another concern is that using these scores (there needs to be two: MAP and HSPE?) only applies to core teachers, and in secondary there are many teachers who aren't core.

Another concern is how it works when a teacher teaches, say, two core and three non-core: would there be two evaluations? Would MAP scores reflect on ALL the teachers classes?

Another, of course, is that all teachers (and all staff) impact student learning, as do people outside the school. How will "credit" or "discredit" for scores be allocated. It appears that it would all go to the core teacher, but that's silly, really, especially when you consider a situation like a Reading teacher (non core) and an LA teacher (core) both sharing a student....Who gets money (three levels of "mentor"-type teacher) or dinged (dropped to comp eval and possible probation) when THAT student's scores are announced?

Of course, this is assuming we grant any test the validity required to accurately assess student learning and attribute it to whomever.

peonypower said...

Regarding test scores- basically if you teach a tested subject and your students show low growth over 2 years you can then be subject to additional evaluations by the principal, and placement on the new evaluation system. In addition if you want to apply for "career ladder" positions of demonstration teacher, master teacher, etc. you must tie your evaluation to student growth. The SEA argued that staff would not be fired over student growth and that the MAP test was already mandated by the district and principals have that data. Weak arguments to me for even considering using test data as a evaluation tool. What is clear to me is that this validates the use of test scores to identify "good teachers." Something MAP was not designed to do. I for one am truly disappointed by the vote tonight. There were voices there who disagreed, but I think most of the membership are either to scared to strike or don't understand how wide we have left the barn door open.

ttln said...

it's the second. none of them think it applies to them- their schools. those not tested don't care. nothing changes for them.

Teachermom said...

I think that the thing to do at this point is to do everything we can to stop the levy from passing. Most of the objectionable bits depend on the levy for support. Take away the bribe money, and the teachers will remain together in solidarity. Also, the MAP depends on the levy for support.

mirmac1 said...

Don't worry. We're going to get rid of MAP. Hold the district's feet to the fire to be proper stewards of public monies (by having an open fair procurement process), AND vote No on the levy.

Arnold said...

@ Mirmac..Right on!

Anonymous said...

I just saw this in the NYTimes online:

Seattle Teachers OK 3-Year Contract
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: September 3, 2010

Filed at 12:24 a.m. ET

SEATTLE (AP) -- Seattle's teachers have approved a new three-year contract, which means classes will begin as scheduled Sept. 8.

Shortly after the contract vote Thursday, members of the Seattle Education Association voted ''no confidence'' in Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

The superintendent has said the agreement includes a new evaluation system that takes into account improvement in student learning.

The contract would give teachers 1 percent raises in both 2011-12 and 2012-2013. It gives them more collaborative planning time, sets aside more money for mentors to help instructors new to the classroom and adds other leadership positions for teachers.

The contract would also give extra money to teachers who work in the lowest performing schools and meet performance expectations.
ken berry

Central Mom said...

Here's the quote from the District's press release on the contract's ratification:

“I am so pleased that SEA members have voted to approve a three-year contract for certificated staff,” said Dr.
Goodloe-Johnson. “This historic agreement builds on a tradition of collaboration with our teachers and will
further strengthen the excellent work of our educators and administrators to keep student learning as our
central focus. I honor the dedication of our teachers, knowing they work each day to ensure that every student
reaches their highest potential.”

Unknown said...

As far as that levy thing goes - I think the public will be interested to hear what has happened to past levy monies. What, for example, happened to the money we voted for that would reduce class sizes? Also, at the recent board meeting, there was a childcare program at Ballard High, which I think was started with levy money, which was just shut down.

karyn king said...

Given the rousing no-confidence vote, I can't see how SEA could possibly support a levy, which would put more millions into the hands of MGJ. I know I will work to defeat it.

Dorothy Neville said...

Teachermom and Karyn, how will you work to defeat the levy? We need to work together. If you have ideas, please share. I gave some ideas on my blog and would love if people would comment there to show support for defeating the levy. You don't have to give your full name, stick with your blogger pseudonym if you wish. Just now, when I talk to people about the levy, they suspect we are on my own, just the five of us who have formed the Committee for Responsible Education Spending might be out in the fringe.

I spoke to the 36th LD DEM Exec board last night. Although they were interested and outraged at the audits and Sharon Rodgers of SchoolsFirst had a weak argument, in the end they voted to recommend their general membership endorse the levy.

All the LD DEMS are meeting this month and most will be discussing endorsements. The PTAs and PTSAs will be meeting this month and voting on endorsing AND FUNDING the levy campaign. We need action. We need people to join up and attend meetings and be heard.

The SCPTSA has not voted to endorse yet. Convince your PTAs rep to vote no.

Even if we cannot convince the DEMS and the press and the PTAs not to endorse the levy, some will listen and agree with our position.

Tomorrow I will post a printable flyer with lots of information about the audits and mismanagement in clear detail. It's awaiting some final editing. I'll be printing lots of copies to have available to pass out to everyone I can.

I hope I can spur others into action as well.

Sahila said...

this pro deform blog needs comments from parents:http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/blog/post/no-teachers-strike-school-board-says-historic-education-reform-will-receive-no-funding#comment-1252

Sahila said...

we are so heading down the wrong path...
http://zhaolearning.com/2009/08/07/no-child-left-behind-and-global-competitiveness/

please people, get mad, really really mad about what's being done to our kids....

dan dempsey said...

Some in the General Public believe that many teachers are none too bright.

Hopefully a lot teachers are better about teaching school than about matters outside their subject areas as over half voted for the contract as written.

India said:
"What is clear to me is that this validates the use of test scores to identify "good teachers." Something MAP was not designed to do. I for one am truly disappointed by the vote tonight."

This was like ceding the Sudetenland to Germany in 1938 to STOP Hitler.

This continues the appeasements that began with Cleveland performance management concessions about a year ago.

Looks like SEA negotiators get to look good at the present ... Award them the Neville Chamberlain award.

Patrick said...

I don't like MGJ's policies. But comparing her to Hitler reduces to a joke how bad Hitler was. MGJ has not started any wars or sent anyone to death camps.

dan dempsey said...

My intent was to show that appeasement is rarely a viable policy in the long term.

I chose a historically prominent example of appeasement.

The failure to confront bullies has consequences. Whether the SEA performed sufficient confrontation or simply appeasement will be revealed during the life of the contract as well as in the next contract.

In no way did I mean to trivialize September of 1939, or gas ovens etc.

Sahila said...

well, I do equate her and all of the ed deformers to Hitler...

is it any less of a crime to deprive millions of children of their full potential as human beings?

is it any less of a crime to give them only the space and resources to turn them into compliant workers and consumers, tied to the wheel of debt?

I think not...

And I point the finger at teachers who have agreed to this contract...

Some on the SEA facebook page have said they did it "for the kids"...

God I'm sick of that phrase and its manipulative misuse...

If they really were passionate about the kids, they would show them by actions, refusing to go along with this deform agenda...

The sky will not fall, the earth will not stop spinning on its axis, kids will still be able to go to college if there was a strike or a lockout...

If teachers did care about the kids and made them their first priority, they'd not sign the contract and take what comes as a consequence (jobs at risk or not)... they'd be giving a great real life, not just theoretical, lesson for our kids on standing behind one's principals and on civic duty and action....

Tim said...

Sorry Sahila. Voting down the contract would not have led to a strike. No way. The drum beat for a strike would have needed to start back in the spring. This is not the climate for a strike, and teachers as a whole appear to me to be uninterested in the huge emotional investment it takes to strike. Let only the herculean task of organizing one. The SEA was not ready for a strike, because striking when the national unemployment rate is 9.4% and people are still losing their homes is foolish. Let alone when the task of explaining your point of view requires an audience that wants to pay attention to detail. It is easy for the Ed Reformers to paint a simple set of talking points, leaving the SEA to trying to explain the nuances. A strike would have been a lose for the SEA.
I think the contract should have been turned down, but in the only urban district of its size with such a poor enrollment rate in the public schools, our problems run a lot deeper. Voting the contract down also risks the possibility of a court imposed "last best offer" which would have been the whole SERVE proposal...

Jan said...

Sahila -- once again, great links, especially the Zhou one (there is LOTS of thoughtful commentary on misuse of testing, standardization, etc. on that site.

Dan -- I agree that appeasement will NOT work here. The current SSD administration knows just what it wants, is not interested in any feedback, anyone else's ideas, or any deviation from its intended path. Any compromise from the "other side" (parents, teachers, etc.) is only seen as evidence of weakness from an adversary who must be worn down (I think she views the Board the same way -- every time she makes a commitment and then totally blows off any effort to keep it -- and they swallow it -- they reinforce her belief that she can run right over them -- and it happens over and over.)

I am curious about your comment on the "Cleveland performance management concessions." Could you explain what you were referring to?

Central Mom said...

Tim, I think your analysis is the pragmatic reality. That does not mean there isn't room for idealism. We need that too.

Anyhow, thank you for articulating.

kprugman said...

It will be interesting to see what happens after three years - voting for a 1% raise seems shortsighted especially with a $28 million projected deficit. The only advantage that I see is the length of the contract.

The district is hedging to gain public support so the bond won't get defeated. Voting no confidence in the superintendent and ratifying the teacher contract appears contradictory.

The concessions are temporary and in the long run if the economy shows no signs of improving or test scores show no improvement, teachers will continue losing more of their salary and benefits.

Cut the funding for reform and unnecessary taxation, improve the quality of the curriculum, and schools will improve without the meddlesome and expensive help of human resources, the technology department, and testing office. Just what students and teachers need, another deadwood administrator.

kprugman said...

Even worse, a computer that simulates an administrator. I have enough trouble reading all the email traffic on outlook, respond to it, and then go teach.

The time teachers spend collaborating is valuable, but what's the point when an administrative team paves over it with a 50 page handout converted into powerpoint slides.

dan dempsey said...

Jan,

The Cleveland situation was already completely changed while the last contract was still in place. Most of the performance Management agenda was already bought into by anyone choosing to stay at Cleveland for STEM.

Bafia and Olga just bought this crap hook, line, and sinker.

SEA Negotiators remind me of some real estate agents who are in every deal for themselves not the client.

There are lots of places where teachers work without a contract rather than striking ... example "Boston" right now.

"Seattle" should be as well. I find the contract inadequate ... still packed with MGJ trash.

Jan said...

Thanks, Dan. I had forgotten about the "special" Cleveland contract. Am I correct in thinking there may be "special" single school contracts in place for West Seattle Elementary and Hawthorne, as well? Or was it only Cleveland STEM?

TechyMom said...
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TechyMom said...
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TechyMom said...

Speaking as an SPS parent, I'm mostly relieved. I'm really glad we're not going to have a teachers strike. Families in this district have been through enough without that. I'm glad we're not going to have early release days twice a month, and that teachers will be paid for their mandatory training time. I wish we could do that with the rest of their training, and get rid of all the other half and full days without classes that are such a scheduling headache.

I'm glad MJG lost a battle, because I think she has generally been bad for this district. I'm glad the bit about her being able to overrule any evaluation is gone.

I liked the idea of parent and student evaluations counting, and hope that comes back at some point in the future. A lot of parents feel like their input is completely ignored, and this is probably the biggest difference I've noticed between public and private schools (that I attended, and from camp and the application process for my daughter). Maybe teacher evaluations aren't the best place to start, but if Seattle ever wants to get more kids with active educated parents into public school, the customer service needs to get fixed.

And, leaving the big thing for last, testing... I like the idea that we're looking at the data and using it as a way to ask questions. If a teacher's students have very low scores over time, I want some to ask why and see if there's a real issue there, or just a teacher who takes on kids who are harder to teach. Having test scores trigger a deeper look is exactly what we should be doing for kids and for teachers. Using value added scores seems like it eliminates most of the unfairness based on what's happening at home, because kids' growth is compared to the same kid's growth last year. Just like an unexpected test result can trigger a process that finds an undiagnosed learning disabilty or a gifted child acting out due to boredom, I hope that an enexpected growth score can help a teacher to improve his or her craft, or find teachers who are getting better-than-expected results with challenging populations. I found the LA Times data showing more variation within a school than between schools compelling, as well as the reaction of the teacher who had lower growth than she expected. Maybe it won't work, but it's interesting data, and I'm glad we're looking at it.

I plan to vote for the levy. I don't think I'll be campaigibg for it, because, honestly, I'm much more worried about Patty Murray loosing her seat than whether this levy passes. Without the levy, things go on as they are, which is ok, and with it we try this new thing, which is also ok.

9/4/10 7:57 AM

kprugman said...

The LA Times did not provide all the data. The reasons for the variation are not clear and only an opinion of narrow-minded white people. Placing students into tracks is customary and part of what US public education stands for - Separate, but equal.

Not all data should be used as an excuse for more reform, especially from the same persons who've been profiting by it.

McKenna's statement is accurate, but not very helpful - An elected official can be compelled to return money that was mismanaged, but they haven't committed a crime.

What he does not say is what constitutes a crime. And I can think of two ways - Avoiding taxes or proving collusion - That a group of people with similiar aims who set out to defraud the public.

If US taxpayers can be forced to bail out the investment banks who caused the calamity of 2008 preying upon homeowners by shorting mortgage loans, then what makes you think this government will protect taxpayers from unscrupulous school boards.

Who started the deregulation of the banking industry? Reagan.

How about this one? A government goes to war in Iraq for seven years with an average cost to taxpayers of $50 Billion per month - more than the GDP of Iraq during the first 3 years of occupation.

This recovery is the final phase of an elaborate swindle and soon we will be facing another downward spiral in the bond market and then we will hit a real economic depression. Employment is not going up and our GDP growth rate is a fraction of what it was 5years ago.

I've lived my life as an academic and a contrarian and now I'm retiring to Costa Rica. I raised my kids to be musicians and artists - I say to hell with Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Ann Arbor, and public education. It all sucks.

kprugman said...

Arnold's post is correct -SPS is running a $28 million deficit and this levy is giving teachers a 1% 'temporary raise', in effect paying for their support of the new evaluation system.

MAP is a performance test. It will have no validity when especially schools are facing one crisis after another: overcrowded classrooms, shortages of personnel, and poor quality textbooks.


The net effect will be teachers teaching to the test and more students dropping out from failing too many classes. In my book, that's not raising student achievement; its the actions of a coward pretending to act like a professional.

kprugman said...

And the biggest unanswered bugaboo of them all - Will the tests be aligned to the nonsense that's been adopted in Seattle?

Why do I sense we have not heard whether student success will be rising anytime soon?

SPS and OSPI will make sure that it costs parents more money than they have to get their kids ready for college.

Maureen said...

kprugman at 11:42 you said I say to hell with .... public education. It all sucks.

Then you went and made two more posts. Why not just move on now that you've consigned public education to hell?

kprugman said...

Maureen - I made a promise and I'm keeping it. It will be years before anyone finishes reading all that I have to say about 'education reform'. I have more than one alias you know.

kprugman said...

The people who have consigned public education to hell are not me. I am merely recording its demise.