Seattle teacher’s letter about SERVE proposal

Here’s a letter I got a week ago through a Seattle mom’s listserv. I don’t know which teacher wrote it, but it reflects the concerns of a lot of teachers.

– – – –

Dear Parents of children I have taught,

There is a new system that is steamrolling into our school district, into our classrooms, and into the relationships that I have with each of my students. This system, driven by standardized tests, will change the classroom environment dramatically. I am asking for you to make your voices heard on this issue.

As you may already know, Seattle Public Schools is prioritizing its focus and funding on ways to make teachers “more accountable” by linking student test scores to teacher evaluation and compensation.

But the elephant in the room is: Are these high quality tests? Do we want teachers to give them highest priority? Tests such as the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) test finite skills, which can be useful for a teacher in designing instruction, but let’s not be

misled: it does not test how an individual child is developing skills of critical thinking, creativity and problem solving, or independent and teamwork skills—cornerstone qualities of the most successful members of our society.

As a successful lifelong learner myself, I naturally need feedback in many forms to evaluate my teaching so I can continuously improve.

However, this move to emphasize test results to evaluate and compensate teachers is setting students up to be shortchanged.

Teachers will be forced to teach a narrower set of skills, focusing on test‑measured forms of “success”. Class time for music, arts, social studies, science, research, and physical education will continue to dwindle as long as the focus on testing is largely in reading and math. I have already seen this happen throughout the district at the elementary level, especially in schools with higher poverty rates where students tend to test poorly and the pressure to raise test scores is intense.

Even testing logistics have a negative impact on learning. In buildings throughout the district, the entire school is denied access to precious library resources for 9 weeks out of the 36 weeks of the year to allow for MAP testing three times a year:

that’s 25% of the

year! On top of that, often teachers and principals decide that kids need more practice with standardized test taking on the computers in order to succeed on these high‑stakes tests. Children will see libraries as testing centers rather than as places to expand their learning through research and be inspired by great books.

What about teacher evaluation?

All students deserve talented, effective, inspiring teachers. We need an evaluation system that encourages teachers to engage children in critical thinking and in creative problem solving, as opposed to a system focused on multiple choice test taking. A new evaluation system was developed collaboratively over the last few years by the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools and piloted in several Seattle schools, and was shown to be a useful and effective evaluation system to judge the effectiveness of teachers. It also gave principals the power to put those teachers who demonstrated ineffective teaching skills on probation. This system is an exciting new development for our teachers and administrators, something that many saw as a very promising step forward to building successful schools.

But then Superintendent Goodloe‑Johnson acted unilaterally in adding the test based evaluation system to this new collaboratively‑developed system

After 15 meetings of the contract negotiation teams, Seattle Public Schools introduced a new addition to the collaboratively developed evaluation system, reducing the new system to 50% of a teacher’s evaluation, and announcing 35‑45% of the teacher’s evaluation would be tied to student performance on standardized tests, most significantly the new MAP test. This 11th hour addition to the contract negotiations is called SERVE. These are just a few of my concerns:

* The MAP test was brought to the district in a no‑bid contract.

Not having an alternate bid for many contracts is an embarrassing critique outlined in the federal audit of SPS, recently published.

* Superintendent Maria Goodloe‑Johnson sits on the board of the company that makes the MAP test, and did not disclose that before the contract was approved.

* Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that makes the MAP test, states the test was never designed as a tool to evaluate teachers.

* $4 million price tag to roll out this system includes money for the test and for more administrators to oversee the program‑‑‑ money that won’t go to our children’s classrooms.

* Honest and thoughtful evaluations can’t be that easy! The SERVE plan hands teacher evaluation over to a computer.

Do we want computerized tests at the core of what our teachers teach and what our children learn?

What Can You Do?

Come to the Board Meeting at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE) on August 18. Just come to show your concern or sign up to speak. “Members of the public who wish to address the board may do so by e‑mailing (boardagenda@seattleschools.org) the School Board Office or calling (206) 252‑0040, beginning Monday, August 16th, at 8:00am. The public testimony list will be posted Tuesday afternoon, August 17th. For information on how the public testimony list is created, please visit the Board’s website.”

Talk and write to everyone you know about your feelings. Write to The Seattle Times and neighborhood papers. Email or call Superintendent Goodloe‑Johnson at superintendent@seattleschools.org or 206‑252‑0167

Contact the School Board members and tell them your concerns with the SERVE proposal and the direction it would take our schools. Seattle School Board email addresses:

superindendent@seattleschools.org; peter.maier@seattleschools.org, sherry.carr@seattleschools.org; harium.martin‑ morris@seattleschools.org; michael.debell@seattleschools.org;

betty.patu@seattleschools.org; steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org;

kay.smith‑blum@seattleschools.org; pjoakes@seattleschools.org; mcrain@washingtonea.org

Thank you for participating in public education; it is the foundation of our democratic society.

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One response to “Seattle teacher’s letter about SERVE proposal

  1. Pingback: Seattle teachers: what’s all the fuss about? « kristinking's Blog

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