Friday, September 23, 2011

Strike is over!

Finally, the strike is over.  I don't know that I'd say everything is 'settled,' but school is back in session in Tacoma today, Friday, September 23.

The issue of reassigning teachers has been deferred.  A committee--of teachers and administration--will continue to work to develop a procedure for reassignment.  Word is, any plan coming out of the committee has to have 2/3 agreement of the committee, but will not go before the union membership for a vote.

This means, of course, that the composition of the committee is all the more important.  Let's pay attention to what that committee looks like.

There are several questions to which we can now return.

Achievement Gap

  • How do we prioritize all the suggestions the consultant’s report makes?  What evidence suggests that cultural training supports student achievement?  The district has undertaken several cultural awareness initiatives before, why haven’t those generated more success?
  • What is the best evidence about causes of and solutions to the achievement gap?  The consultant’s report contains the following two sentences--about a page apart.  

The Advisory Committee found that the achievement gap for African American students is caused primarily by: 
     Inequitable distribution of skilled and experienced teachers (p. 13)


The degree to which quality teachers are available to African American students in Tacoma schools could not be determined with the available information (p. 15)

  • How do we make sense of the “primary cause” of the achievement gap?

  • Why has there been so much less mention of the Hispanic achievement gap?

Balancing Objectives

  • The Tacoma schools have the responsibility to get students to standard, and get them college ready, and close the achievement gap.  Sometimes these objectives are at odds.  Getting a nearly-at-standard student to standard is much different from making them college ready.  How shall we reconcile these sometimes competing responsibilities?

Teacher Evaluation

  • What connection can we verify between student test scores and teacher effectiveness?  How confidently can we use test scores to evaluate teachers?

Candidate Dexter Gordon has written, rather awkwardly (what are "generative contractual arrangements"?) about this.  In a statement on the strike, in which he first professes that a candidate shouldn't interject his views before he proceeds to give his views, he subtly but clearly comes out in favor of teacher evaluations based on student scores.  

He is sure that the ability "to get rid of bad teachers" will close the Achievement Gap.  He said so in the TNT endorsement interview we participated in last June.

But, as his statement points out, it's time to rebuild trust in Tacoma.  With views like those, I doubt he's the right candidate for that.

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