Our union worked for a while without a contract because we were locked in some very heated and lengthy negotiations with our district. Our district is one of just a handful left in California which they call “Basic Aid” or “Excessive Tax.”  The short explanation is that our enrollment doesn’t matter; we don’t get ADA from the state. Our property taxes are high enough that we just get to fund ourselves sort of. We’re in there with places like Silicon Valley and Beverly Hills. It means–sorry–that our district still has money (albeit much less than before), unlike most other districts in the country these days, and especially California.

They just didn’t want to give any of it to us teachers. (Yes, I know that’s an exaggeration. duh. But I think you know what I mean.)

Finally we signed a contract last fall for some minimal raises and suchlike, but 2 of the 5-6% bump over a couple of years was tied to us signing on to the new teacher evaluation instrument. A teacher/admin/consultant/facilitator team had almost a year to hammer out the details, and it was rolled out this week. We vote at the end of September, and if we don’t like it, we lose the 2% raise.

The good news: Test scores are not part of the picture at all. Not even a mention in the domains (4) or the components of those domains (22) or the elements of those components (76) or the  rubrics that are used to judge those elements (45 pages).

The bad news: I don’t think anybody understands how much work the system will be for…

Administrators. And I don’t think a lot of them are ready for this. It’s going to take time. Lots and lots of time. Time not spent dealing with purchase orders and Ed Code and parent complaints and churning out paper that nobody reads.

This new system is going to make them actually get into classrooms and observe the teaching, not the bulletin boards or the discipline or the tidiness. It’s going to force them to be specific in their criticisms and in their praise, and most of all, it will force them to learn a little bit about what makes good teaching.

I would have rated all this as good news, but I have my doubts about anyone pulling this off without lapsing into old ways. In my 20+ years and 7+  principals, I’ve had one to whom this new thang would be second nature already, and she’d bake you a pie for the rollout meeting to boot. But she was the exception, not the rule.

I was a BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) mentor for four years and three teachers. This new system is almost completely copped from the BTSA model, so I know from observing and rubricizing and domains and components and elements and all that. And I know that it was a lot of work, which is why they paid me extra and fed me well at the trainings. And my regular readers also know that I don’t exactly go by the book, so when I say it was work, it was work even with shortcuts and ignoring a lot of paperwork.

I will roll out the details this weekend. I am interested in some comparisons with other states and districts.

If this works, it might be a very good thing. If not… what’s 2% anyway?