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August 5, 2010

Tension grows over Seattle teacher evaluations

Amy Rolph:

Seattle Public Schools wants teacher evaluations and student performance joined at the hip, but the teachers' union is taking issue with how the district plans to fuse those two factors.

A proposal that would tie teacher evaluations to student growth prompted a 2,000-word refutation e-mail from the Seattle Education Association earlier this week, a sign of friction in ongoing contract negotiations.

"Their mechanized system is one of minimal rewards and automated punishments," union leaders wrote to members Wednesday.

That statement was sent in response to an e-mail teachers received this week from public schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. She detailed how the school plans to roll out parts of its bargaining proposal -- specifically factors related to how teachers' performances are evaluated.

The district is proposing an four-tier evaluation system that would roll out over two years. Teachers who chose to be evaluated base on to "student growth outcomes and peer and student feedback" would be eligible for perks, including an immediate 1 percent pay increase, eligibility for stipends and other forms of "targeted support."

I was impressed with Susan Troller's recent article on Teacher Accountability and the Madison School District, particularly her inquiry to Lisa Wachtel:
The district's recent decision to provide professional development time for middle and high school teachers through an early release time for students on Wednesdays is part of this focus, according to Wachtel. The district has sponsored an early release time for elementary school teachers since 1976.

She admits there isn't any data yet to prove whether coaching is a good use of resources when it comes to improving student achievement.

"Anecdotally we're hearing good things from a number of our schools, but it's still pretty early to see many specific changes," she says. "It takes consistency, and practice, to change the way you teach. It's not easy for anyone; I think it has to be an ongoing effort."

This is certainly not the only example of such spending initiatives. Jeff Henriques has thoughtfully posted a number of very useful articles over the years, including: Where does MMSD get its numbers from? and District SLC Grant - Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 3. It appears that these spending items simply reflect growing adult to adult programs within the K-12 world, or a way to channel more funds into the system.

I believe it is inevitable that we will see more "teacher evaluation" programs. What they actually do and whether they are used is of course, another question.

Ideally, every school's website should include a teacher's profile page, with their CV, blog and social network links, course syllabus and curriculum notes. Active use of a student information system such as PowerSchool, or Infinite Campus, among others, including all assignments, feedback, periodic communication, syllabus, tests and notes would further provide useful information to parents and students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at August 5, 2010 6:58 AM
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