Here’s an example of the problem that DPS has with transparency.
A representative of the Gates Foundation is in town today to meet with the new board members. Why is this significant? Well, the district and the teachers have been working together to submit a grant to the Gates Foundation to fund a new teacher evaluation system. According to the grant document:
DPS is requesting $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the design and implementation of a holistic performance management system, one that ensures that the focus of both individual and school level accountability is student growth, that compensation incentives are more effectively tied to performance and to communicated expectations, that teacher evaluations accurately reflect a teacher’s effectiveness with his or her students, and that teachers are provided with a path forward to improving their practice.
Now, I see this as a very good thing. One of the issues I heard loud and clear as I was canvassing was the concern about “bad teachers.” At this moment, we have an anemic teacher evaluation process. The only rankings a teacher can receive are either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” and 99% of all DPS teachers received a “satisfactory” rating…some of them without ever having a principal step foot into their classroom all year. Further, after three years’ “satisfactory” ratings, teachers receive what we see as “tenure,” which really only means that they are no longer an at-will employee and have protections under the collective bargaining agreement. Let me clarify that this does not mean that a teacher cannot be removed from service. That simply is not true…it’s just that the agreement requires a certain process to be followed to ensure a fair removal.
But I digress. Because effective teachers is a universal concern, I think that the fact that the district and teachers are working together to make the evaluation system more robust, and asking for financial help to do it, is a FABULOUS thing. Because so many of you expressed this concern, wouldn’t it be a good thing for you to hear that we’re working on it?
So…we’re having meetings with the program officer of the Gates Foundation today. I requested joining a meeting in which two other board members were in attendance, but the Superintendent’s staff told me that they wanted to avoid having to post a meeting notice and record the briefing (three board members present triggers “Sunshine” laws because it constitutes an official meeting). I asked why this had to be behind closed doors. I stated that the public has a right to know not only the bad, but also the good.
I got a message today that the third board member will not be in attendance, thereby robbing you of the opportunity to be in the know.
I don’t understand why the district wouldn’t want to take advantage of the positive press. Why isn’t this a good thing?
Update: Well, I ended up not making it due to the heavy snowfall we got today, but Director Kaplan did. I’ll post any remarks she might have.