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Originally published Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 12:04 AM

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Schools group urges contract changes

A coalition of Seattle community groups is pushing for big changes in the contract for Seattle public-school teachers.

Seattle Times education reporter

Coalition proposals

A GROUP of community organizations wants to see the following nine elements in the new contract for Seattle teachers:

1. Teachers should have increased collaboration time with peers.

2. Teachers should have increased classroom-preparation time.

3. Seattle Public Schools should expand its mentoring and coaching programs for teachers.

4. There should be a four-tier teacher-performance-evaluation scale, as opposed to the satisfactory/unsatisfactory evaluation currently used.

5. Currently in Seattle Public Schools, principal observations are the primary factor in teacher evaluations. Instead, student-academic growth should be used as the primary factor in teacher evaluations.

6. Teacher performance, as opposed to seniority, should be the predominant factor in staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs.

7. Currently, the process to remove ineffective teachers can take 18 months or longer. Instead, the lowest performing teachers should be removed in less than 12 months.

8. There should be opportunities for increased compensation for teachers based on performance, additional responsibilities, subject-matter expertise in hard-to-staff areas, and placement in high-need schools.

9. The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including through programs such as Teach for America.

Poll highlights

Sixty-four percent of parents and 59 percent of nonparent voters strongly support increased compensation for teachers based on performance, additional responsibilities, subject-matter expertise and placement in high-needs schools.

More than 75 percent of teachers didn't want to use student academic growth as the primary factor in their evaluations, with 48 percent "strongly opposed."

Nearly three-quarters of teachers strongly support having more time to prepare for class and to collaborate with peers.

Fifty-five percent of teachers oppose using teacher performance as the predominant factor in making decisions about placing, transferring or laying off teachers.

The poll, conducted by DMA Market Research, had a margin of error of about 7 percentage points.

Source: Alliance for Education

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A coalition of Seattle community groups is pushing for big changes in the contract for Seattle public-school teachers.

Saying it has strong parent and public support, Our Schools Coalition has nine proposals, including such controversial ideas as evaluating teachers in part on how well their students do and basing any teacher layoffs on performance as well as seniority.

It's unclear what effect the proposals will have on the negotiations between teachers and the Seattle School District, slated to start this month.

Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson said she welcomed the input, calling it "important to our work," but negotiations between the district and the teachers union are confidential, and parents and community members have no official role.

Still, the coalition hopes to influence what happens at the bargaining table with a new poll that shows a majority of parents and Seattle residents support all nine of its suggestions, and a majority of teachers support seven of the nine.

"We can put these ideas out there and show the support that's out there, and encourage the district and the (school) board and the union to be bold," said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters, one of the coalition's 17 members.

The new coalition is the latest indication that parents and community members want to be heard on the important issue of teacher quality.

Last year, a group called Communities and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) petitioned the district to consider performance as well as seniority when it lays off teachers.

That led to the formation of another coalition, Seattle Organizers for Community Engagement in Education, which also has been lobbying the district about teacher quality and about giving parents a voice in policies that affect it.

Some members of that group, which has been around for about six months, were taken aback by the rapid formation of Our Schools Coalition, led by the nonprofit Alliance for Education, a fundraising and advocacy partner for the school district.

"We'd been working closely with a lot of different groups including the Alliance, and it completely took me by surprise that they were doing a coalition," said Ramona Hattendorf, president of the Seattle Council PTSA.

Venus Velazquez, formerly CPPS executive director, said the Alliance's move felt dismissive of the efforts parent groups have made.

The Seattle Council PTSA and CPPS haven't yet decided whether to back the new effort.

While the Seattle Council PTSA generally agrees with many of the ideas, Hattendorf says that its members need to know more about the details.

"We don't want to rush into something that's ultimately not going to be productive or beneficial," she said.

The Alliance sees the coalitions as two complementary efforts.

"There's room for more than one voice on this matter," said Sara Morris, president and CEO. "I think we both have the same intended goal."

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

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