At about 12:30 PM on Thursday, January 21st , I received a forwarded e-mail from our school PTSA president that had been originally sent the night before at 9:20 PM.
The original e-mail was from our Seattle Council PTSA President, Ramona Hattendorf, asking all of the school PTSA Presidents to read the attached document and have someone at the meeting that next evening to vote on the document. That document was the Community Values’ Statement.
This was the first time that I had heard of or had an opportunity to read the document and yet we were requested to vote on it that evening. We ultimately got two minutes each to discuss the document before it was voted on. As Legislative Chair of Nova PTSA, I abstained from voting because I had questions and concerns about the document and they are as follows:
The first sentence is “Every classroom is led by an effective teacher”.
That sounds innocuous enough but how do you measure effective teaching? Within the education reform movement, the term “effective” is used when discussing measuring a teacher’s performance by using student assessment testing. The next step after this testing is awarding teachers who are more “effective” with bonuses or higher pay. This is referred to as “merit pay”.
And the second sentence is, “Evaluate principals and teachers using multiple measures that include student performance.”
How do you measure the effectiveness of a teacher based on a student’s performance? Whether they get A’s or B’s in their classes? Do you review the student’s portfolio? Or, do you give them a test? More than likely, most people would have the students take a test. It’s less expensive and seemingly efficient. With Governor Gregoire pressing our state legislators to approve specific aspects of the Race to the Top requirements, one of those requirements being merit pay, this sentence just gives them the perfect reason to vote for such a bill.
When we moved to Washington from California, I decided that we would live on Mercer Island based mainly on WASL scores. Little did I know what the price was to get such high test scores. The focus was on that test and little more. There was no time for creative thinking that used a synthesis of different thoughts and ideas, there was only one way to solve a problem. A lot of stress was put on the students to do well on the test and they did perform but at a price.
The material is dumbed down and it’s a matter of memorization with no understanding of the larger picture.
That’s why my daughter goes to Nova now.
What we really need to be looking at is supporting our teachers by creating smaller class sizes, better and adequate materials for their classes and a pleasant and safe environment for them to work in, not merit pay based on student testing.
Update: January 5, 2012
After this school board meeting, this statement was used as a tool to try to manipulate the teachers union to capitulate to demands by the Broad-trained superintendent during negotiations later that Spring.
The marketing team that put together the Community Values Statement in Seattle, Strategies 360, resurfaced in Tacoma to try to influence the union negotiations and then in August of 2011 used the same tactics in Bellevue.
Unfortunately, that time, the teachers capitulated.