Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teacher Focus Groups

This week the Alliance conducted teacher focus groups. As you likely know, we've been participating in a conversation about how to best ensure a strong teacher in every classroom.

The purpose of this effort was to to hear what teachers are experiencing in the classroom, and collect feedback and responses to the larger teacher quality discussion. As a parent, I hear pieces of it, but getting to the big picture requires hearing different perspectives from teachers across the district.

We are just starting to analyze the information, but a few things are clear. There is no single voice for how teachers feel about particular issues. The priorities vary. The experiences vary. There appears to be a deep desire to do the work in a respected and autonomous way. These are perspectives that should be heard as we look for solutions in serving all students.

We will share the results of these focus groups with the public in the near future.

In all of our areas of work, we are finding that the more we can collaborate in our search for solutions, the greater the potential impact. I look forward to seeing how these voices can contribute to the larger conversation.


  1. There you go again, talking about teacher quality without any defnition for it.

    What do you mean by "teacher quality"?

  2. That's an interesting question, "what do you mean by teacher quality"? It sounds like you are asking for some specific characteristics that can be measured to gauge teacher quality.

    To me, it seems like higher quality teachers will be reflected in the success of the students. And since teaching is as much of an art as it is a science, teacher quality seems hard to define.

    I think through this process of assessing the district by getting input from teachers, parents, students, administrators and the community.. teacher quality will be defined by how the students are doing.

    I'd be curious to hear what type of definition you are looking for, Charlie Mas.

  3. Charlie,

    The definition of teacher quality is an important piece and something we need to define in partnership with teachers, administrators, community members, and others, as to Sly's point.

    Here are some definitions of teacher quality to start the discussion.

    You’ll notice the one from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is the most comprehensive. You can find more information at this site:

    I invite you and others to contribute to the discussion beyond saying what we shouldn't do. We'll never move forward if we allow every barrier to be a reason to stop.

    There are steps we can take now that can set the stage for moving forward with this work.

    So let’s start the collaborative discussion with the one thing we all have in common: The fact that we all really care about the students.

  4. I like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards' definition. Very comprehensive and touches on some of the intangibles that are hard to measure.

    Do you have information on tools they use to measure the items in this definition?


  5. Trish,

    Great question. We'll be following up on some of these to get to that very question of what tools are used to measure. It's great to learn from what other are already doing around the country.

    We'll keep you posted as to what we find.

  6. Karen,

    I have not saying only what you shouldn't do. On the contrary, I have been saying what you should do: define teacher quality and quantify it.

    You have presented a laundry list of descriptors of teacher quality, but you haven't settled on any of them. And there certainly isn't any attempt to quantify these measures.

    So, as far as we know, Seattle has the finest corps of teachers in the world and we have already maxed out teacher quality. As far as we know there is no more advantage to be realized from improving teacher quality.

    I don't see any point in investing a lot of effort or resources in working to improve or enhance any of these various descriptors of teacher quality when we don't know where we are weak and we don't know which ones really matter.

    My observation, experience, and research has lead me to believe that teacher quality is a much smaller determinant of student achievement than the active involvement in the student's education by an adult in the student's home. Why isn't the Alliance making this the primary focus of their efforts?

  7. I'm just trying to picture the responses from community and partners if the Alliance were to define teacher quality.

    The reason we see the point in investing resources into looking at the teacher quality issue is because we are still failing kids every day, in the schools, and in the communities. Until that stops, we've got a lot of work to do.

    And the research shows pretty clearly that the single biggest school-based factor that can improve education is the teacher. Here are some links for you to look at.

  8. Karen, as evidenced by the survey y'all have running right now, "quality" is surely lacking back there in your survey department.
    Unless...The survey shows us what you mean when you say "quality": Teachers who are maligned, worked harder, subject to more capricous dismissal...your "survey" is one of the most biased pieces of propaganda Ive ever seen. You say you want to discuss quality, then you feed the citizens of this fair city a survey that is obviously slanted towards your desired outcomes. Almost all of the questions attempt to reach the "touchy-feely" side of parents and citizens, the "gee, they SHOULD work harder!" mentality fostered by organizations (such as yours, apparently) that strive to demean teachers, insult them, drag them down...The very last question says it all: In order to submit the survey, one must select TWO "priorities" that one would like to see pushed. The list of priorities consists of all the "talking points" foisted by the reformistas (again, your organization seems to fit that bill) on a busy, distracted, mis-informed public. So in order to complete the survey, one must agree to TWO of your desired outcomes.
    What a crock.
    This survey lists very few, if any, things that might actually help teachers: smaller classes, more planning time, fewer preps, fewer unfunded mandates, fewer mandatory, standardized tests...It's all about slamming teachers.
    I aim to make sure the Mayor, OSPI, and anyone else who will listen knows about this attack on educators.
    You should be ashamed.