Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Members are Weighing in on Teacher Quality

As many of you know, we recently conducted seven community meetings on teacher quality. I would first like to thank the following organizations for their incredible support and participation:

· 37th Legislative District
· El Centro de la Raza
· Coalition for Equal Education Rights (CEER)
· Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle
· Cleveland High School
· Successful Schools in Action/McClure Middle School
· University of Washington College of Education

I also must express my sincere gratitude for the wonderful facilitators of these conversations:

Kevin Boyce (Alliance for Education), Sylvester Cann (Central Area Motivation Program), Caroline Maillard (Seattle Foundation), Ian Smith (Hitachi Consulting), Jessica Jones (Seattle City Club), Liz Peterson (UW College of Education), Alma Villegas (Stand for Children), Gregory Davis (Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition), Liz Vivian (Boeing), and Lisa Moore (Successful Schools in Action).

These conversations were filled with voices from parents, students, teachers, community based organizations, education advocates, and Seattle Public School Board Directors. One thing is clear from our participants: teacher quality is a key factor in student academic success.

Community conversations displayed passion and concern on several issues. Below are some key themes and comments that came out of these discussions:

Professional Development and Support
· “Teaching is like high-quality professional work; you need time to get really good at what you do.”
· “We need to explore what sort of ongoing [professional] development we can offer that is relevant. We must figure out what teachers want to learn and what skills they want to gain.”
· “Teachers need to be ready to teach when they are assigned to a school – not just ready to get paid.”
· “We need a system that creates more advocates for children that come from poor and disadvantaged families. “
· “We need passion and talent for teaching. Some teachers are hired because they have the necessary degrees, yet I believe that teachers need to have the ability to work well with all students.”

Accountability and Evaluation
· “We can’t just blame the teachers; it is the way the system is set-up. We need to have more accountability for our kids and our teachers. “
· “Leadership at the district must make sure that quality in education is happening”
· "If teachers are evaluated only once a year, the students who are falling behind slip through the cracks. Evaluations need to occur more often. We recommend at least once a month. That way we can be sure that our children are learning.”

Tenure and Seniority
· “We believe that teachers should be evaluated not just on tenure but also by other teachers, parents, students. We should be able to participate in the process.”
· “Qualifications (teachers’ performance) should come before seniority when making work force reduction decisions. I don’t think tenure should be the only factor in determining work force reductions. Sometimes the younger teachers are more energetic and it is better for them to replace the more senior teachers that are worn out. “

What is captured here is only a glimpse of the richness in our dialogue. Participants were truly engaged, primed, and ready to have the discussion, even if they did not completely agree with the recommendations of the NCTQ report or one another. This is a necessary conversation for the benefit of our students and teaching professionals.

I strongly encourage you to attend our final community meeting with the African American Parent Action Team on Tuesday, April 13th at 6:30pm. The meeting will be located at Rainier Beach Community Center and will be hosted by Dawn Bennett of the League of Education Voters (LEV).

Also, please RSVP for our Teacher Quality Town Hall, scheduled for Tuesday April 20th at South Lake High School, CLICK HERE. We are currently summarizing all community feedback in a final document and are focused on relaying that information to the public and school district partners during this event.

Please join us for this vital conversation!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

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