Locked in battle with the Seattle School District during contract negotiations, teachers plan to rally before a school board meeting this evening at district headquarters. Their beef: the district's proposal to use student test scores in teacher evaluations. Like anything with the district, the proposal--and the teachers' reasons for fighting it--are complicated and tied up with a lot of bureaucracy. But a new video released by the Seattle Education Association makes one thing clear: Teachers, many of whom were already fed up with Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, have found a new reason to hate her.
Now it may not happen. It's being blocked by one administrator--one administrator who wants to undue this historic change, to twist it into something different, something unproven, unsound, untested, unacceptable. That administrator? Our superintendent.
What is this historic change that the purportedly reckless Goodloe-Johnson is undermining? According to SEA head Olga Addae, who makes a brief appearance in the video herself, it's the years-long work of a joint union-district task force that has already been reviewing the way the district evaluates teachers.
The task force has come up with detailed descriptions of criteria on which teachers should be judged, according to Addae and the SEA website. Test scores would not be one of them, although teachers would be expected to look at such data in order "to improve their practice," Addae says.
This doesn't exactly sound like radical change, and for that matter the district's proposal doesn't seem that radical either. While test scores are deeply flawed measures of teacher effectiveness (seeming to negate the role of students in their own learning, with all the discrepancies in motivation, ability and family support that come into play), the district proposal is suggesting that such data be only a piece of what teachers would be judged on. (See the district's pdf description of its evaluation proposals.) What more, the new system would be voluntary, applying only to those who to opt in (and who would potentially receive more money if they do well).
But there's a principle at stake. Using test scores in teacher evaluations is the latest Big Idea of education reformers nationwide, one teachers take as an implicit assault on their competence. (See the L.A. teachers union's call this weekend to boycott the Los Angeles Times over a series judging teachers by test scores.) Locally, Goodloe-Johnson has put herself smack dab in the middle of the controversy.