I went to this meeting because Olga Addae, the Seattle Education Association President, was to introduce herself and SEA and provide information on the association.

When I arrived there were about five PTSA members and one teacher. By the end of the meeting there were three more PTSA members including myself. I was expecting more parents to attend but that’s why I write these notes. I know how it is with work and family.

First there was the Council business. I arrived late and came in during the presentation made by a representative from the Office of the Education Ombudsman. This office seems to be a great resource for families. Briefly, they help you “understand and navigate the public school system”, assist families in communicating with their child’s school and make “special education work for you”. I won’t go into details, but if you want additional information, see www.waparentslearn.org or call 866-297-2597.

After that Heidi Bennett, the SCPTSA Legislative VP, talked about state funding of schools and said that our state is one of the bottom five states in terms of school funding. We are 45th out of 50 states per pupil funding. (That’s pathetic and in this state there is no reason for that.) Heidi went on to say that the state of Washington has the most regressive tax structure with the lowest 20% of earners paying 17% in taxes and the top 10% paying 4% of taxes.

I do admire Gates, Sr. for pushing a state income tax which seems the only way to properly fund many of our public systems including education.

As with all of the ed reform action that is to take place because of the passing of Bill 6696 in our state, the question comes up as to how this will be paid for. It will cost millions of dollars and with little chance of “winning” the Race to the Top “lottery” (see:  http://epi.3cdn.net/4835aafd6e80385004_5nm6bn6id.pdf), the state of Washington will have to come up with the money.

Heidi mentioned that there will be a vote in the June meeting about whether the PTSA of Seattle should support the Our School Coalition petition (yet another Alliance attempt to declare their efforts “grass roots”). Stay tuned.

Now it was time for Olga to speak.

Olga said that she wanted to bring the “T” back into the PTSA in Seattle. She said that there are two stakeholders in our educational system, the parents and the teachers (I appreciated her saying this because you hear that term so much these days when speaking of ed reform. WE are the stakeholders, not Arne Duncan, President Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad or the KIPP Board of Directors.) and that it all comes down to the teachers and staff, the student and the family.

Olga went on to discuss the proposed four level evaluation system that is required by Bill 6696 but also said that the this evaluation system had been decided upon last August by SEA. At this time we received a handout titled “Domain Level of Performance”. Olga said that she brought in everything that she could legally, because negotiations with SEA and the superintendent are happening now.

It was clarified that now the evaluation cycle is two tiered with satisfactory and unsatisfactory being the outcome. With the proposed evaluation system, which I have posted at: http://sites.google.com/site/seattleschoolsgroup/ptsa-meeting-with-olga-addae

with my scribbled notes and all on it, there is more depth in terms of the evaluation and levels of accomplishment. Olga said that it would take 24 hours of professional development per teacher to do this evaluation system well. (That could be a reason why this had not been done before, money.)

This evaluation of teachers was being developed by Charlotte Danielson but funding for this was eliminated when our new superintendent moved into SPS.

Olga said that an environment needed to be developed that supports this framework of expectations and where teachers feel comfortable taking a risk in trying something else to reach the students.

After Olga’s presentation of this new evaluation system, there were questions. Olga said that the four level system was to be implemented by 2013 and that there needed to be an estimate done on the cost of implementing this new system. (Could it cost more that the MAP implementation with a price tag of $4.3M? I see far more value in this new evaluation system than having students and staff spend 4-6 weeks each year with MAP and WASL tests.)

Heidi then asked about teachers and “tenure” and what is being done to move them (I suppose the “bad” teachers) out? She went on to say that this was a “burning question” that parents have. Olga first clarified that teachers in Seattle do not have tenure but seniority. She went on to say that it was a matter of training the principals to know how to evaluate and then take action in terms of a teacher. Olga said that this training should be done, and paid for, by the district. She said that “removing someone’s livelihood should be a difficult process” (indeed). According to Olga, the union pays for two mentors who work with teachers who are on probation.

There was a clarification made at this point by Olga that principals have their own union,

More questions and more answers:

According to state law, there is no peer review or 360 system in place for evaluation of teachers.

Lake Washington has used this four tiered evaluation system successfully for nine years.

At the end of her presentation, Olga said that teachers should be evaluated out of the system not dropped out through rif’s.

(Olga is planning five community forums around Seattle to connect with parents and students. I would suggest that any school who wants to host such an event get in touch with Olga. Her contact information is (206) 283-8443 ext 107, omaddae@washingtonea.org.)

Then a teacher, Donna, was introduced to discuss the MAP test.

She said that she has always been accountable to the principal for test scores. Donna said that MAP should be a part of the student plan but not the MAP alone. (Teachers receive reams of paper on each student describing what needs to be done in terms of preparation for the next MAP test according to the scores.)

45%-65% is considered “above average” on the MAP scores and 35% is considered below average. According to Donna, the superintendent wants to ties these percentile descriptions to the performance of the teacher.

There is a ceiling to the test at 99% so after that, the student cannot show any more progress. For that reason, Donna said that most teachers would want to teach the students who were considered at below middle or middle scoring because those students would show the most progress. She said that teaching is a highly collaborative profession but with evaluations based on test scores, you would no longer have that sort of collaboration.

Donna also mentioned that the last MAP test occurs in April before the lesson plans have been completed and basically you have two more months of teaching so the tool is inadequate in terms of knowing where the students are at the end of the semester when all of the information had been provided to the students.

After her presentation, Donna told me that the MAP test can be used as a very broad indicator of where a student is.

Anyway, that was the gist of the meeting.

If you have any questions, please post them here and I will respond to them as quickly as I can.

Dora