Thursday, September 15, 2011

Decision-making in Tacoma

The authority and procedure for decision-making over reassigning teachers is part of contract language.  The "flexibility" movement wants to change the procedure by moving that authority to principals--read, district office.

The abstract alternative to which we turn always sounds more appealing than current mixed reality.  That's why we need to be clear that flexibility is not the only thing we'll get from the proposed change in the reassignment procedure.

We'll also get recentralization of the process--this time at the district office instead of in the contract language.  As I've opined before, centralization is tightening, and tightening usually invokes a variety of risks.

Politicizing the process is the biggest risk.  By that I mean several things.  People--at all levels--are more subject to social pressure than contracts are.  Vesting authority in a few people means the mechanisms of pressure can be more easily applied.  It doesn't take a masters in education to see how that trickles down to incentivize teachers to 'make people (principals, parents, but probably last of all, students) happy.'

Retaining this authority in a few people also gives them excessive power over such a crucial decision.  And, to be frank, too many people in district administration are unhappy or unsuccessful teachers.  Or, at least, they have something of an antagonistic relationship with teachers.

To put a finer point on it, the switch proposed by the district would work best the higher the trust among all involved.

I think we're headed the wrong way in that area.


Mike said...


I have heard it said that the Seattle teachers last year accepted displacement language that's close to what the Tacoma district is proposing. But I'm skimming the SEA contract just now and it looks like it's pretty much straight seniority to me.

Do you know more about this?


Andrew Milton said...

I have to apply the "dog that didn't bark" principle here. I've only seen material TALKING about the idea of value-added models replacing seniority in Seattle, and nothing I've seen said that Seattle had done so. I'd think there'd be reporting on them doing so, if they had.
Still looking for an article that says "Seattle does (or doesn't) use seniority."