1. Isn't it weird that ... in its contract talks with the school district, the Seattle teachers' union, the Seattle Education Association, wants to scrap the teacher evaluation system it proudly helped developed in 2010 in concert with the school district and now replace it with the new state standards?

Why so weird? Because the SEA testified—dramatically so—against the state standards when they were first proposed in 2012, arguing that adopting them would force them to "torch" all the great work they did developing their own local system.

In the current negotiations, teacher evaluations represent a major disagreement between the union and the District. The District wants to keep the local version in tact, meshing it with the state system (they argue that the local, more stringent, system gets better results and is in sync with the federal standards) and the union wants to shelve it for the state system (they argue that having two systems—the state system isn't going away—is now redundant, cumbersome, and contradictory).

Both groups are reportedly going to the mat on this issue.

Ironically, in 2012—watch then Seattle Education Association President Olga Addae's testimony against the state evaluation legislation—the union agreed that the local evaluation system was superior to the "minimum" "not research-based" state system.

"Good morning. I'm Olga Addae. I'm president of Seattle Education Association .... This task force was established in 2004 in Seattle in our bargaining agreement, and its purpose was to create a new evaluation system based off nationally known and research-professional best practice. This is an example of just one of the four notebooks I have from the task force's work of developing this new evaluation system. If I was allowed a torch in here, I might as well torch it if this new senate bill passes. ...  It is not that Seattle is behind. As a matter of fact, all of our teachers will be on this new evaluation system next year. ...

You set us on a task to develop a new evaluation system, and we did so. ... We used the books. We made the rubrics. We followed this. But this proposed law states, we need to evaluate and develop a new rubric based off minimum criteria. Well, the criteria are maybe only one component or one element in a very complex teaching practice rubric, which we've already adopted. So everything will have to shift to minimum criteria, which are not research based."

In its report on the state bill, non-partisan house staff summarized Addae's testimony and other union leaders against it:

Districts have spent literally hundreds of hours looking at different components to include in teacher evaluation, trying to determine for each component the most effective way to measure performance. This is powerful work that must be done at the local level and should not be handed down from the state. ...

The Seattle School District has been working on a revised evaluation system based on national research and best practices. There are massive notebooks containing all of the work that has been put into this effort. If this bill passes, a torch might as well be put to them. The problem is that the Legislature set districts on a path to develop new evaluations. Districts adopted rubrics, and they worked on redesign. Now they are being asked to shift to an entirely new direction that is not research-based.

Here's my theory on why the SEA has changed it's position (a District negotiator, told me the union's "message has changed" since 2012, calling it "puzzling"): Times have changed too.

In 2010, public sentiment was for more stringent accountability measures on teachers. But there's been a pro-union, anti-testing backlash more recently (note the populist, successful anti-testing walkout late last year that blossomed with teacher protests at Garfield and became a national rallying point and national story). That shift certainly affected the state rules drafted in 2012 as the backlash was first taking hold—and, indeed, the state standards are less stringent. As I noted yesterday, the Obama administration, which brough its gung ho ed reform message here in 2010, has reprimanded Washington state's new teacher evaluation bill—just as the SEA did in Addae's testimony—for being inadequate and putting the state at "high risk" of losing federal education dollars.

Union spokesman Rich Wood says there is no contradiction between the union's 2012 position and the one in current negotiations.

The new mood, however, plays to the union's bargaining position, and it seems, is giving them confidence to back away from a local plan they themselves helped write—and boasted about on video—in favor of a looser evaluation model.

While that's my theory, teachers' union spokesman Rich Wood says there is no contradiction between the union's 2012 position and the one in current negotiations.

He tells me:

"There is no contradiction. Teachers had concerns with the law. It passed. Now school districts have to comply with the law. We have a statewide teacher evaluation system. The Seattle School Board insists on keeping the old evaluation system negotiated three years ago, on top of the new state evaluation system that applies to all teachers. That's not good for teachers or kids."

Wood's point echoes the point Seattle teachers' union president Jonathan Knapp made yesterday when he explained to me that the old Seattle system only covered teachers in "tested" subjects such as math and reading; overlaying the state evaluation system on top of that would mean some teachers would have two different evaluation regimes. Additionally, the two systems may contradict each other.

Negotiations are reportedly still underway.

2. The Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a group of over 300 food and beverage-related businesses that has recently pulled ahead as the top contributor to the "No on I-522" campaign, seems to have made a few tweaks to its website since yesterday.

On Tuesday, the list of members under the website's "About" tab included: Bayer CropScience; Dow Agrosciences; and Monsanto (all of whom have also contributed to the "No" campaign). Also on the list of famous food science companies: The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, PepsiCo, and Mars, Inc.

Curiously, today, the about tab doesn't give you access to the members list., though the page  does still exist.

Intentional? Or just a glitch?

We are still waiting to hear back from the GMA.


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