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Another day, another ominously worded email from the school district strongly advising parents to make alternative childcare arrangements for this Wednesday September 4 because it might not be the first day of school for the Seattle School District after all. The Seattle Education Association (SEA) will meet Tuesday afternoon to either tentatively accept a renegotiated contract offer from the district, reject the offer and work without a contract while negotiations continue, or strike.
::: Sigh :::
On the one hand, I completely see where the teachers are coming from. Standardized high stakes tests are all the rage in these days, much to the detriment of everyone involved in my opinion. Teaching to the test is a way to get kids to pass a test but not a great way to teach kids an ongoing love of learning and key critical and creative reasoning skills.
Accountability to quality teaching and learning is a great idea but only if it’s operationalized in a way that makes sense. Case in point:
Washington State has adopted new statewide education standards. The Seattle School District wants to link teacher evaluations to their students’ performance on the standardized tests associated with these new standards only – and here’s the kicker – there isn’t any curriculum to support the standards yet. So it’s basically like, “Hey teachers! Kids! Good news! We’re going to hold you accountable for knowing all about widgets and generally thinking in a widget based paradigm! We’ve got a new high stakes widget test for you and everything. In 4 or 5 years we’ll also give you a curriculum about widgets but we’re pretty sure you’ll be able to glean enough about widgets and widget based lingo from the materials you’ve got already. So, you know, good luck! And FYI: We’re going to be super-harsh if you guys haven’t actually learned about widgets because accountability is important.”
In addition to that ridiculousness there’s all the usual culprits associated with labor disputes in education: long hours, low pay, not enough staff, not enough professional development, and general overload in a low respect, high burnout profession.
There’s basically no way I could find it in me to fault the teachers for striking because, as the saying I learned in my pre-high-stakes testing public school days goes, “That’s some shit right there.”
However, there’s no denying this situation sucks for students and parents. My daughter won’t know until literally the night before if she’ll be starting kindergarten in the morning. All the work and emotional energy we’ve put into making her transition to kindergarten a smooth one is confronted with another enormous roadblock.
Plus there’s me. Transitioning into a more active professional role is a big adjustment and took a lot of time, energy, and networking to set up. Now I’m faced with either having to back out of various commitments and risk being viewed as unreliable or spend a chunk of money we haven’t budgeted for to tentatively set up childcare for an indefinite period of time. And inexpensive, quality “maybe, sort of, for a while, hold a place, I’ll get back to you” child care isn’t really a thing.
I’m fortunate in that if push comes to shove I can make it work. Many parents can’t without extreme financial hardship. The City has set up childcare options for low income families on a space available basis. That’s great, for what it’s worth, but there’s still a huge need that isn’t being met.
A mediator has now been brought in to facilitate further negotiations between the district and the SEA.
Mediator: if you’re reading this, I will pay you ALL THE MONIES if you get this situation figured out.
ETA: Tentative agreement has been reached as of 12.18a this morning. OH. THANK. GOD.