Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teacher Quality Discussions – Part 1

On Monday night, the Alliance for Education and the 37th Legislative District engaged in an open dialogue about teacher quality. We were joined by Seattle Public Schools Board Directors Harium Martin-Morris, Betty Patu, and Steve Sundquist. This event was the launch of a series of community-wide conversations focused on strengthening teachers in every classroom.

The discussion began with all participants indentifying their top priority for improving teacher quality. We then discussed a variety of topics around the distribution of teacher talent, hiring, and evaluation.

Some of the key talking points and recommendations from our participants included:

More Resources for Teachers
· Great teachers are stressed. We [teachers] have a lot of issues to deal with. We need to explore how to address the underlying causes of the stress.
· Teachers are stretched too thin. Overwhelmed and need more assistance. More pay is a good start, but they need other incentives.
· Curriculum and Resources – we need more thoughtful curriculum, and also time to prep deeply into lessons.
· Consider performance pay for student growth and performance.
· Implement quality professional development which provides support for strong teaching

Attracting Innovative Talent

· Recruit teachers who are leaders, particularly for underperforming schools
· Ensure teachers value each child as a unique individual. All students should be on track to succeed.
· Support teachers who can apply different teaching styles. They must provide innovation in the classroom.
· Put increased focus on teacher preparation programs – methods taught at universities. Teaching prep needs support solid classroom management skills.
· Many teacher prep programs prepare teachers to work in suburban classrooms. Need support and learning for teaching in urban areas.
· Place the best principals in troubled schools.

Strengthening Accountability
· Strengthen accountability for teachers and principals effectiveness; need clear accountability for principal evaluations.
· Determine if it’s possible to know that student learning is occurring. It’s hard to measure, but we can’t continually teach to the test. Learning must be based on other factors.

This was an intimate and rich discussion that only scratched the surface of a much larger and significant debate. We invite you to share your thoughts on our blog and join us for upcoming meetings in your area. CLICK HERE to find dates and times for additional meetings. Join the conversation!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager


  1. Some of the comments above ring true - teachers need support, time...
    In this "modern" age of "reform" I wonder how a teacher can, for instance, be held responsible for student acheivement if they don't have the resources to support it. In Seattle, the new MAP tests (three times a year) are supposed to identify specific ranges of student levels in a classroom. The idea is that teaches will then differentiate instruction so as to support those student levels. Some feel this test is one that might be used to evaluate teachers.
    But Seattle is also cutting funding - most schools are working with budgets that reduce FTE (staff), and this is BEFORE any potential RIFs. Of course, core classes must remain, so support classes, counselors, and other assets that help differentiate (including time for planning) go away.
    So how will teachers be held accountable for differentiation if they have larger class sizes with much more range of level, as remedial classes disappear? Who will be accountable for THAT?

  2. Let's begin by replacing our social promotion model with early and effective intervention.

    Much of the pushback on corporate- and philanthropic-directed efforts at "teacher quality" assessments is focused on the uneven levels of student preparation. Teachers cannot be reasonably expected to teach students to grade level when the students enter the class working two, three, or more years below grade level. The obvious solution for everyone is to have a separate program for students working below grade level that quickly brings them up to grade level and returns them to a general education classroom.

    That's what's best for the students.

    Seattle Public Schools is far too focused on school performance and the Alliance is far too focused on teacher performance. Instead, they should focus on student performance and deliver the help where it is really needed - not to the school, not to the teacher, but to the student.

  3. Sooo.....Charlie, how's life treatin' ya? How 'bout that Kentucky team, eh?

    doo, de doo....

    Hmm, guess they, Gates, and Broad are too busy putting together push-polls that support their "desired outcomes" to communicate with us mere citizens.


    Catch ya in the funny papers.

  4. Seattle Citizen,

    I haven't really been following the tournament. Sure, I knew when the Huskies won - and were ahead at halftime against West Virginia. I knew about Northern Iowa taking out Kansas - that was rich - but I'm not really much of a sports fan and particularly not a basketball or college sports fan.

    I used to follow baseball pretty closely - before having kids. Working as an usher at Safeco Field is part of my retirement dream.

    I suppose if this blog isn't going to be used as a place for dialog between the members of the public and the Alliance, then we might as well use it as a place for dialog among the members of the public.

    Spring Break is here and every other member of my family is out of town. One daughter on a trip organized through the school and the other daughter and her mother gone to Montreal for the week. As tourists but also to check out McGill University. McGill allows visiting prospects to sit in on classes, and my daughter is really looking forward to that. Her teachers tell me that her French is very good - she won't speak it in front of me - so that might serve her well while she is there.

    Me, I've got the house to myself for a week which is a great luxury. I'll be able to use the time to finish my cosplay for Sakura Con. I'm going as Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop again this year as I did last year. Next year, however, I've decided that I will go as Porco Rosso. The facial hair is less of a commitment and the costume is both generally easier and a better match to my body type.

    Do you have any special plans for the break?

    Anyway, nice chatting with you.

  5. As of Sunday, 28 Mar. 2010, there is NO response in any teacher "quality" diary from Alliance people.

    R. Murphy

  6. Charlie,

    Ah, yes, Spring Break! I, too, have the place to myself, my wife has to go east for family matters...But I'm learning in my maturity how to "putter," so I am doing just that. The garden awaits some clearing, meanwhile there are household chores, some reading to catch up on (the journals of Thompson, Columbia explorer...say, are teachers allowed to teach about Thompson anymore? Is he on the HSPE or MAP?)

    Also weeding out my library. I collect NW history and lt, and I fear unless I get rid of some occasionally the house will sink under their weight. Luckily I've got a good eye: I've almost collected enough through sales in two months to pay for a trip with my wife back east this summer, to my home town.

    Montreal is a beautiful city. Saw it during Expo 67, then again as a teen when I did a little skiing up that way (best snow in the east is not in the US, alas) I know that your daughter would enjoy that city if she so chooses. Oui oui. (he he. he said "oui oui"!)

    MathTeacher42, welcome to our "R and R" blog! After so much attention and effort around school issues over on other blogs, in person, etc, it's nice to come here, put our feet up, and not worry about having to defend TRUE quality education from the animals that would tear it limb from limb. Pull up that easy chair and take a load off.

  7. I spent the very nicely today. I'm going to Sakura-Con next weekend and this year I'm working it as a member of the staff. Look for me in the infobooth late on Friday night or during the middle of the day on Saturday. Today the Sakura Con staff spent about two hours stuffing the swag bags that people get when they come to the convention. It's a huge job, but, as I often say, Many hands make light work.

    After that we all had a pizza party at Gameworks and the Gameworks folks - a convention sponsor - gave us each a one hour play card. So I played video games for an hour for the first time in over twenty-five years.

    Tommorrow real life resumes as I go back to work. But it will seem odd to have the house to myself.

  8. Aye, my house is empty too, alas

    Glad you got some video games in! Like you, I haven't played since "Asteroids" when I was twenty. But if someone GAVE me some tokens...

    Good luck with your Sukura-Con, sounds like fun. I'm planning a road trip whilst waiting the the hail to stop.