Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More about the Alliance - Why we are involved in the teacher quality discussion.

I want to continue the conversation about our priority areas of work at the Alliance for Education. In a past blog I outlined four priority areas:

  • Community Schools
  • College Access (includes all post-secondary educational opportunities)
  • Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality
  • Community Engagement

For this blog I want to share a bit more information about our work in supporting teachers and teacher quality, adding to information previously posted. During the past several months, we have been working with Seattle Public Schools, parents, and a variety of community organizations and individuals to engage in a dialogue about how we sustain strong teaching in every classroom.

The primary goal of this work is to help Seattle Public Schools support strong instruction throughout the city. A system that nurtures new teachers, supports continuous learning, and encourages strong educators to work in high needs school.

As you may know we contracted with the National Council on Teacher Quality to conduct a report on how Seattle is doing in recruiting and retaining effective teachers. We held a public event, and you can read the summary in a previous post. The recommendations that resulted from this report are listed in a link on our web site and we have created a summarized document here: http://www.alliance4ed.org/docs/NCTQ%20Recommendations.pdf

Here are the activities we are currently engaged in:
· With the help of an in-kind grant, we sent a copy of the full report to every teacher in SPS. We included a cover letter stating that although we contracted with NCTQ we don’t agree with all the recommendations, but believe it’s a great opportunity to start the conversation.
· We invited teachers to provide feedback as to their areas of priority for this work. For example, is compensation the most important issue? Evaluation? Tenure?
· Community groups are having the same conversations and sharing with us priority areas for us to focus our efforts.
· We will be conducting teacher focus groups to ask additional questions.
· We are compiling responses from all of these activites and we will ultimately share all this information with the district partners, the union and the greater community.

We know that teachers are the most important component of a classroom. They are there to teach our children and are a vital part of student academic growth. But they are also part of a child’s human growth from helping dry tears in Kindergarten to connecting students to college access resources in high school. It’s a tough and complex job and we’ve got to figure out a way to support and provide partnership so we can really all serve all students in the city.

As a parent, my two daughters have overall had great experiences in Seattle Public Schools. My eldest daughter’s first connection to school in Seattle was at Lafayette Elementary after we moved back here from Portland. She had an incredible teacher, one who truly paved the way for her to love school and learning from an early age. Graduating from college this month, she still loves learning. Being a first-generation college graduate, who received my degree much later in life, I’m pretty excited about that.

And I want that for all students in our city.

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