Our Schools Coalition Wants Your Input

The Our Schools Coalition, an Alliance for Education project funded by the Gates Foundation, wants to kibbitz once again on the negotiation between the teachers' union (SEA) and the District as they wrestle over the collective bargaining agreement. And they want you to tell them what they should agitate for. Provide your input here.

Just in case you question the propriety of their kibbitzing in the process, they have this blog post to justify it. Only that blog post doesn't give any reason that we need Our Schools Coalition to serve as the voice of the community in addition to the democratically elected board which has the duty to serve as the voice of the community to relay our priorities to the negotiators.


Unknown said…
This group is the most astro-truf, made-up group you can imagine. It is not a "group", it's a group of groups who signed on with the Alliance calling the shots.
Anonymous said…
Even more reason then to tell them what parents want, not millionaires with kids in private schools.

Anonymous said…
I want to advocate that all teachers use the Source / Fusion pages (obviously there'd be fewer updates at elementary level). It is unacceptable particularly at HS level that there are teachers who do not keep families apprised of progress because "my contract says I don't have to post to the Source."

BTW, Alliance for Ed, please never call during dinner again!! 6:28 pm call the other night!

Time for Change
Eric M said…
As an SPS teacher and parent, I totally agree with "Time for a Change" about posting grades to the Source.

It is utterly frustrating as a parent.

As a teacher, it is an embarrassment that this is so poorly implemented, and I have often made the case to colleagues and the SEA leadership that this is our single most public interface between parents and teachers, two groups who ought to share common goals and outlooks. It remains baffling to me the SEA would continue to negotiate away other rights and concede working conditions, furloughs, and even the smallest cost of living increases, while holding firm on this.

I am not claiming to be the world's greatest teacher, but I do work really hard to keep my gradebook and the Source up to date. I really do like the end result. It comes with its own set of communication issues, a lot of which frankly stem from the fact that 7 or so years after initial implementation, many of my junior and senior students are surprised to get a teacher who keeps it up to date.

I would also make the point that this is a perfect example of a particular kind of counterproductive process that humans engage in all the time, and is particularly rampant in education, including SPS.

Build out this expensive tool with vast potential. Demonstrate once (years ago) how it might be used. Then move on to other shiny projects, leaving the actual implementation haphazard, unattended and without leadership. We have never, at any level, had a single planned discussion about "best practices" and creative ways teachers use the Source.
Eric B said…
I had some choice words for them:

Professional Development using Danielson: It's important to offer professional development that is linked to the evaluation system and connected to student achievement. That's obvious. However, it's not clear that the Danielson (tm) method is the only, best, most effective, or most cost-effective means of doing this. In fact, any method that has a (tm) after it's name is suspect to me, since it is clearly intended to be a money-making venture. If profits trump effectiveness, we all suffer.

Peer Review using MET system: Peer review can be helpful in evaluations, but needs to be carefully monitored to ensure that the evaluations are fair. Also, the MET project appears to be limited to newer teachers being evaluated and coached by more experienced teachers. This is a far narrower program than widespread peer review. That's not necessarily bad, but selling widespread peer review on the basis of the MET program is somewhat disingenuous.

Student Growth Measures: While student growth over the year is not specific to a single test, it still suffers from the problem of rating teachers based on testing. This needs to be carefully reviewed and implemented, since the "value added" methods of teacher review are heavily skewed by the student population the teacher is assigned. Note studies that indicate that the highest ranked echelon by value-added methods tends to have high turnover. Since teacher skill is not likely to change from year to year, other factors must play a significant role.

Hiring: I am uncomfortable with leaving most transferring teachers out of the hiring process for schools. A policy where very low-performing teachers are left out is perhaps reasonable, subject to the concerns about teacher evaluations above. There is also a substantial difference between the "negotiating table" and "kitchen table" descriptions of this program. I would also be very surprised if the term "forced placement" is used at the negotiating table. That difference makes me very suspicious of the proposed change. If it's not presented honestly, why should I support it?

Timing: This is a good idea, but needs to be tempered with the realities of the October 1 head count setting teacher numbers at schools. If the process is moved forward so that the October 1 headcount does not result in teacher layoffs or transfers, then this is appropriate.

And in the "additional comments section: The negotiating process is most properly between the school district and the teacher's union. Why is LEV, Our Schools, Alliance for Education, etc. involved in the negotiating contract? Outside parties involving themselves in negotiated contracts looks like meddling that is unlikely to give positive results.

I suspect it's not what they wanted to hear.
Watching said…
Let's be prepared to watch these folks skew and misuse data.

I noticed a link to TIF report, which states principals do NOT support merit pay.
Unknown said…
"We have never, at any level, had a single planned discussion about "best practices" and creative ways teachers use the Source."

Well, geez, no wonder teachers don't use it. They need encouragement and help. I personally found this VERY frustrating as a parent.

I would absolute take the survey and tell them what you think. They will skew the results to their thinking but they should hear that there are parents who do not like that thinking.
Anonymous said…
Eric M -
I publish grades to the source several times a day, almost everyday. I know of a lot of teachers who can barely update it twice a month.

I believe that The Problem with implementing the source is The Problem with implementing lots of best practices - you need to implement the right subset of best practices for your classroom system to run smoothly, and that right subset probably isn't the same across grades or subject areas -
and THE PROBLEM with implementing the source, or anything, is that these charlatans come in their magic one shot fixes and don't help anyone figure out how to make their systems work better.

If you're not besieged by charlatans making a nice life pushing the fix du jour, you're besieged by bureaucrats justifying their existence with the fix du jour - or you're besieged by those who fall into both camps - or you're besieged by the enablers without the self awareness to know that all they're doing is enabling bureaucrats, charlatans and those who are a mix.

The Problem is no one wants to figure out how to help make lots of little classroom systems work, because it is too much work, or because they're too incompetent to know that schools and society don't need a bunch of credentialed wannabee Rodin thinkers sitting around thinking about solutions, schools and society need people in charge to be skilled at making systems running better ... !!

Michael Rice said…

I was very fortunate over the summer to get a smart board installed in my room. It has really allowed me to finally start using the web as I envisioned it when I started teaching 8 years ago.

Since I know that most high school kids are not very good at taking notes, I create a notes template for every class period and hand that out at the start of class. We then fill out the template, me on the smart board, the students on their hand out. When we are done, I give an assignment, either out of a book we are using, or something that I create.

I push the notes template (Word doc), smart board notes (pdf), assignment (Word doc) and the answers to the assignment (pdf) out to the fusion page for the class. Parents can access it time they want to see what is going on. I save the files in a date order fashion so it is easy to find where we are in class.

This also allows anyone who misses class to access everything they need, in a manner that will work best for them, since they can access it any time. One of my students will be in China for two weeks in November and she will be able to get everything she needs while she is gone. I am trying to find a way to record class, so I could post that also. I move all around the room while I teach, so just putting a camera in one place won't work.

I am always looking for other ways to push more out to the web. Anything I can do to put the responsibility on the student, I am all for.

I have 165 students this year, plus I am teaching a class two nights a week at North Seattle CC, so I am only grading one or two days a week. I know that can be frustrating for students and parents, but please understand why I no longer grade every day.

I really enjoy teaching at Ingraham. The students are ,for the most part, engaged, the adminstration is very supportive and the parents are fantastic. I feel very lucky to teach in such a school.
Charlie Mas said…
It's a shame that the gradebook and the Source can't be integrated.
Anonymous said…
I am trying to find a way to record class, so I could post that also. I move all around the room while I teach, so just putting a camera in one place won't work.

This sounds problematic if you really move all around the room, since you can't video students without explicit sign off by their parents. (Unless they're 18, in which case I presume they could sign off themselves).

re source/fusion: This also allows anyone who misses class to access everything they need, in a manner that will work best for them, since they can access it any time.

These are great resources, but please don't say it allows anyone to access at any time.

I don't know about your school, but at our school there are kids who do not have regular access to a computer at home. Technically, it may be possible to access at school, but logistics and time constraints can make that very difficult, depending on activities, transportation, etc.

These are great tools to use adjunctly, but please don't assume that every kid will be able to take advantage of them. Some kids may be too embarrassed to even talk about it.

One easy thing you can do is simply print out a small number of copies of the material and leave it in the classroom. Tell the kids they can pick up a copy if it's not easy to get online. Over time you can hone in on the right number of copies to make, based on how many usually get taken.

You may already be doing something like this, but not all teachers do. When teachers start leaning on tools like this too much, it can end up leaving some kids at a disadvantage. Likely the ones who least need that.

- Tech is great when used with care
Eric M said…
Charlie, the Source and our Gradebook (the software is called EasyGrade Pro) are integrated. Every time a teacher closes their gradebook, they get a dialog box asking if they want to publish the changes they made to the Source.

I actually do have a problem with posting every, or even most, materials on line. I am decidedly NOT teaching an online class, and attendance is already a huge issue. I kinda think if I put lots of materials online, it would empower students (and some parents)in the belief that attendance was completely optional. We do labs & activities that just cannot be replicated. Not do I have the time resources to replicate everything online, and communicate through a hundred emails a day. Just not possible without a clone army.
Dora said…
Ah yes, Our Schools Coalition. A blast from the past.

Per a post that Sue and I did last year,
Strategies 360/DMA Marketing Caught Red Handed in Tacoma

"Now we have come to find out that Strategies 360 who was hired by the Alliance for Education to promote the edicts of corporate reform in our Seattle schools and created Our Schools Coalition out of thin air just made up a similar organization in Tacoma, “Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition”.

And how do we know that Vibrant Schools Tacoma was the direct creation of Strategies 360?

Well, someone did a little cyber sleuthing and sent this to us on Friday:

Strategies 360 is definitely involved in Vibrant Schools Tacoma as well. Looking at the registration of the vibrantschoolstacoma.org domain, the person listed as “registrant” is Emily Owens at Strategies 360 (emilyo@strategies360.com). Below is the result from a WHOIS inquiry for the domain.

Same MO, same PR firm behind it."

Just before this post, we realized that the same marketing firm had done the same number in Tacoma that they had done in Seattle.

Heads up, Tacoma teachers! Don’t be fooled by the “Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition”

"Connecting the dots… Yet another ed reform Astroturf organization emerges out of nowhere.

A new Astroturf group has just emerged in Tacoma, WA, that sounds a lot like the one that was fabricated in Seattle last year, with the same mission: to influence the upcoming teacher’s contract negotiations. More specifically, its goal is to impose an outside corporate ed reform agenda on teachers by tricking them into believing there is broad public support for these (discredited) reforms when in fact there isn’t.

Astroturf alert!

This latest entity is called the “Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition” and it emerged in late April.

Just like in Seattle, someone hired an outside marketing company (EMC Research) which apparently conducted a push-poll that pushed the same union-weakening, ed reform agenda we saw touted in Seattle, disguised as “teacher support.” Out of this it created a “platform” and has been announcing itself to the Tacoma media, all in an effort to influence the teachers’ contract negotiations.

The initial VSTC press release has a misleading headline that implies the purpose of the group is to help teachers: “Community coalition seeks increased support for teachers as part of Tacoma teacher union negotiations.” In fact, the purpose of the organization is to seek increased influence by national political lobbying groups like Stand for Children and others at the bargaining table in order to weaken the teachers’ contract. A Stand for Children member/teacher is even quoted in the release."

As someone noted on Facebook today, they have to do something to justify the money they're getting from Gates, et al.
Anonymous said…
What is the deal with the new system from Pearson's called *PowerSchool* to which the District is switching?
It will replace eSIS, EGP and the Source.
How much will this cost? I wonder if it is actually the best product out there.

Tolley and Campbell have told principals that the switch is needed and will occur in the *middle* of the school year.

I wonder whether POWERSCHOOL will be a quick study for registrars, administrators, counselors, teachers and parents--or will it be much more work? Such a major switch in the middle of the school year will bring potential problems. I am sure that it will take a while to implement.

A bit of history: The Source was first rolled out at the middle school level a couple of years *before* it got introduced at the high school level. This meant that when those students arrived at high school, they were already used to the Source.

Eric M is correct when he said
"Build out this expensive tool with vast potential. Demonstrate once (years ago) how it might be used. Then move on to other shiny projects, leaving the actual implementation haphazard, unattended and without leadership. We have never, at any level, had a single planned discussion about "best practices" and creative ways teachers use the Source."

And now, PowerSchool. I have not heard anything yet about the trainings for it.

--Old School Music
hschinske said…
Well, last year we heard that Source was going away and soon only Fusion would be used (which obviously hasn't happened and people have kind of stopped talking about the possibility). Hadn't heard about the PowerSchool thing.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
PowerSchool has been around for a long time - various companies have purchased it and rid themselves of it, including Apple. It is nothing fabulous - does what most any other SIS does, posts grades, gives online access to parents, etc. However, now that it is under Pearson, it has undergone a rather hefty price hike and actually has less functionality than before.

grrr said…
Oh great. Now Pearson is not only getting money from us for crappy math textbooks, but they're going to get all our students' personal data including the classes they take and their grades?

Aren't they part of the PK-20 movement? The movement to do longitudinal tracking of each individual student from pre-K until age 20 (and potentially beyond, if some get their way).

How can we opt out?!

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