Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teacher Quality Dialogues – Part II

On Wednesday, March 10th, the Alliance for Education facilitated a community conversation on teacher quality with the Coalition for Equal Education Rights (CEER). We were joined by Dr. Susan Enfield, Chief Academic Officer of the Seattle Public Schools District. The meeting began with remarks from Dr. Enfield around the school district’s commitment and responsibility to strengthening teachers in every classroom. Her commments were thoughtful and candid, as she made the following statement:

“We are in an unprecedented time of opportunity in public education, both at the national and local level. Teachers, principals, district leaders, families and community stakeholders are engaged in conversations about how we provide high quality teaching and learning, and high quality leadership in all of our schools. Research tells us that while incentives matter, it takes more than money to create a system that attracts and retains the best people. We need to transform the teaching profession in Seattle by creating accountability mechanisms to ensure performance while also supporting teachers through meaningful professional growth and career advancement opportunities that honor the work they do. At the core of this effort, however, is what our students need and deserve--which is the very best we can give them.”

Below, are key responses from our participants during the meeting:

Transfer and Assignment – Transfer and Layoffs
· Reward for good teachers shouldn’t be based on super-seniority.
· Seniority creates hostile environment between teachers and school administration.
· The School District should prioritize the “learner” and not the “teacher” (a school is a place for students to learn, not a career for teachers. Students should be first priority)
· Success rate as a teacher should depend on how many students are served
· Train veteran teachers so they can compete with the younger teachers who are coming out of college or just entering the profession with new tools to increase student learning.
· A problem is that teachers with good progressive ideas get outcast by experienced teachers in the system for bringing new ideas to the table. New teachers end up not having a strong support group.

Developing Effective Teachers – Evaluation
· The district has as much responsibility for students learning as teachers do. It’s not all on the teachers. Teachers can’t be blamed for a system that doesn’t provide them the best opportunity to teach.
· Set priorities for teaching at a system level, and the proper resources should be made available to support these priorities.
· Lowest performing students can’t have lowest performing teachers.
· Maybe businesses should have a voice in the process of evaluating teachers, they provide a new perspective of what’s needed of graduates in the business world and how the teachers can teach to some of those “soft” skills.

Participants’ Top Recommendations to Improve Teacher Quality
· Human capital is important. And leadership. Get the best leaders to be teachers
· Create an atmosphere where teachers are partners in the process
· Connect the dots and understand what resources are available around education. Non-profits, community groups, businesses... those are all good places to coordinate resources with.
· Recruitment, recognition and reward. Help district treat teachers as professionals. Take lessons from private sector when it comes to rewarding employees.
· Know what best educational practice is and train to it. This differs by demographics.
· Change union’s opinion of what a professional teacher is.
· Teachers suffer from a linear and directed curriculum. The current system doesn’t allow for much flexibility. All kids don’t learn the same. Also, help teachers better interact with families and build those relationships. Train teachers in family relationships
· Teachers should have residency period like doctors to prove they are capable and effective. Similar to the Teach for America model.

I’m sure that participants found this conversation very refreshing and informative as we occupied the board room of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) office in the Central District. I was particularly moved by the idea of adopting professional development models from the private sector that may enhance support for teachers.

This meeting was the third of four events hosted last week by other partners including the 37th Legislative District, El Centro de la Raza, and the Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle. There are more to come over the next couple of weeks. I invite you to share your thoughts on this post or consider joining us for one of the upcoming community meetings, CLICK HERE . We would greatly appreciate your voice in the conversation.

Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager


  1. "I was particularly moved by the idea of adopting professional development models from the private sector that may enhance support for teachers."

    Can you expand on this? WHY was this the particularly moving piece for you? Could you tell us what the private sector has to bring to professional development? What is different from the public sector?

  2. I just took a phone survey and it was very clearly sponsored by the Alliance because the language of the phone survey was remarkably similar to the language of the biased, meaningless push poll survey that the Alliance had on this web site.

    Any admission of bias in the survey or apology implied in taking it off the web site was insincere and deceptive. The Alliance just moved it to the phones and it is no better than it was before.

    After getting people's complaints about the District, the only solutions that the survey offered were around this misguided "teacher quality" diversion.

    Look. The solution to the problems in Seattle Public Schools will not be found by working to improve "teacher quality" because that's not where the problems are. The problems in Seattle Public Schools are in poor quality curricula and materials, in the failure to provide early and effective interventions, and in the unwillingness to offer any authentic community engagement.

    The Board isn't doing its job. They don't represent the public, they don't advocate for the public, they don't oversee the management of the District, and they don't seriously consider the motions placed before them.

    The Superintendent rides roughshod over the Policies and the community and the people who are doing the real work: the teachers. Her budget squanders millions on pet projects that won't amount to anything for anyone while it starves classrooms of precious resources.

    The Central Administration is a financial black hole that does almost nothing for students and absolutely nothing for the community.

    You want to take a survey on how to improve Seattle Public Schools, then offer people the opportunity to suggest improvements in the curricula, in the materials, in the budget priorities, and in resources for underperforming students. When you put these items on the list of possible solutions then you will have taken a step towards finding solutions.

    You people really are dreadful.

  3. What are you people smoking, seriously? Teacher quality, blah, blah, blah. Let's bring in TFA grads! Yay! So we get a new teacher every two years? Whoopie!

    Oh, and let's continue to brown-nose billionaires who all went to private schools, and have them tell us what college and work-ready pupils they want to till their crops in the future.

    Yes, why not look to the business community? You know, the one that outsources all the good paying jobs, blackmail states into tax concessions right and left (which starve education budgets, btw - DUH!), and run our country into the ground with phony accounting, lack of regulation and oversight, while trumpeting the almighty dollar as the ultimate measure of human beings. Why not have the entire country run like Wall Street, Alliance? It's done wonders for us so far!

  4. A quality teacher grounds her/his teaching in all facets of life, including history, art and civics, subjects ominously absent from any discussion about "teacher quality" as measured by "performance management" tests provided, handily, on computer programs designed by the very organization funding this "survey" of teacher quality, the Gates Foundation.

    Sharing top billing with Gates is the Eli Broad Foundation and the NWEA. Our superintentent is a member of the board of both.

    No history...no civics....no art...nothing that does not lend itself to easy commodification and production, to "business management" (and hasn't the private sector one such a good job for this country lately)

    Please post on your website your 501c financial report. Many of us are interested in how 501c you actually are.