Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teacher Quality Dialogues – Part II

On Wednesday, March 10th, the Alliance for Education facilitated a community conversation on teacher quality with the Coalition for Equal Education Rights (CEER). We were joined by Dr. Susan Enfield, Chief Academic Officer of the Seattle Public Schools District. The meeting began with remarks from Dr. Enfield around the school district’s commitment and responsibility to strengthening teachers in every classroom. Her commments were thoughtful and candid, as she made the following statement:

“We are in an unprecedented time of opportunity in public education, both at the national and local level. Teachers, principals, district leaders, families and community stakeholders are engaged in conversations about how we provide high quality teaching and learning, and high quality leadership in all of our schools. Research tells us that while incentives matter, it takes more than money to create a system that attracts and retains the best people. We need to transform the teaching profession in Seattle by creating accountability mechanisms to ensure performance while also supporting teachers through meaningful professional growth and career advancement opportunities that honor the work they do. At the core of this effort, however, is what our students need and deserve--which is the very best we can give them.”

Below, are key responses from our participants during the meeting:

Transfer and Assignment – Transfer and Layoffs
· Reward for good teachers shouldn’t be based on super-seniority.
· Seniority creates hostile environment between teachers and school administration.
· The School District should prioritize the “learner” and not the “teacher” (a school is a place for students to learn, not a career for teachers. Students should be first priority)
· Success rate as a teacher should depend on how many students are served
· Train veteran teachers so they can compete with the younger teachers who are coming out of college or just entering the profession with new tools to increase student learning.
· A problem is that teachers with good progressive ideas get outcast by experienced teachers in the system for bringing new ideas to the table. New teachers end up not having a strong support group.

Developing Effective Teachers – Evaluation
· The district has as much responsibility for students learning as teachers do. It’s not all on the teachers. Teachers can’t be blamed for a system that doesn’t provide them the best opportunity to teach.
· Set priorities for teaching at a system level, and the proper resources should be made available to support these priorities.
· Lowest performing students can’t have lowest performing teachers.
· Maybe businesses should have a voice in the process of evaluating teachers, they provide a new perspective of what’s needed of graduates in the business world and how the teachers can teach to some of those “soft” skills.

Participants’ Top Recommendations to Improve Teacher Quality
· Human capital is important. And leadership. Get the best leaders to be teachers
· Create an atmosphere where teachers are partners in the process
· Connect the dots and understand what resources are available around education. Non-profits, community groups, businesses... those are all good places to coordinate resources with.
· Recruitment, recognition and reward. Help district treat teachers as professionals. Take lessons from private sector when it comes to rewarding employees.
· Know what best educational practice is and train to it. This differs by demographics.
· Change union’s opinion of what a professional teacher is.
· Teachers suffer from a linear and directed curriculum. The current system doesn’t allow for much flexibility. All kids don’t learn the same. Also, help teachers better interact with families and build those relationships. Train teachers in family relationships
· Teachers should have residency period like doctors to prove they are capable and effective. Similar to the Teach for America model.

I’m sure that participants found this conversation very refreshing and informative as we occupied the board room of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) office in the Central District. I was particularly moved by the idea of adopting professional development models from the private sector that may enhance support for teachers.

This meeting was the third of four events hosted last week by other partners including the 37th Legislative District, El Centro de la Raza, and the Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle. There are more to come over the next couple of weeks. I invite you to share your thoughts on this post or consider joining us for one of the upcoming community meetings, CLICK HERE . We would greatly appreciate your voice in the conversation.

Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

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