Teacher evaluation is a-changin’

Most states are using student achievement to evaluate teachers, according to Connect the Dots from the National Council on Teacher Quality. ”What is occurring more slowly are the policy changes that will connect the rich performance data from these systems to tenure decisions, professional development, compensation, teacher preparation, and consequences for ineffectiveness.”

NCTQ looks at teacher evaluation policies across the 50 states and Washington D.C. Louisiana is “connecting the most dots,” followed closely by Florida and Tennessee, NCTQ concludes. Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island and DCPS are also ahead of the curve.

The haunted school

Students Last, a humor site, visits The Haunted School.  “A robot-like coed sporting a Teach for America t-shirt and a forced smile . . .  promised to guide us through the house” but mysteriously disappeared.
cuomo

“Michelle Rhee” leapt at our oldest child trying to tape his mouth shut. As my son cowered behind me, she threatened to remove my tenure while menacing me with a copy of the Common Core.

A second TFA guide appeared, but quickly vanished.

In the next room, “Executioner Andrew Cuomo” threatened to execute our school if it failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress.

When the third TFA guide abandoned the group, “we wandered into what we thought was a roomful of zombie children but it turned out they were actual kids just preparing for the specialized high school exam.”

NC ends tenure, master’s degree pay hike

North Carolina teachers won’t get a raise if they earn a master’s degree, under legislation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican. The bill also eliminates tenure and freezes pay for the fifth time in sixth years.

North Carolina is believed to be the first state to eliminate the automatic pay bump for earning an advanced degree.

North Carolina teachers are pursuing jobs in South Carolina, says union leader Charles Smith. ”A six-year teacher is still getting paid the same as a first-year teacher.”

Enrollment is projected to grow rapidly in North Carolina with an added 800,000 students by 2030, notes Matthew Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog. Legislators have expanded school choice options for low- and moderate-income students and special-needs children, but per-pupil funding may not enough to “spur new private school supply,” writes Ladner.

Teachers unions aren’t to blame

Once hostile to teachers’ unions, Education Realist now thinks unions are blamed unfairly for many education problems. She starts with teachers’ cognitive ability.

. . .  high school teachers have always been pretty smart, and drawn from the top half of the college grad pool. . . .  testing and knowledge standards for elementary teachers was once low, is now much higher and more than reasonable since the states dramatically increased the credentialing test difficulty as part of their adherence to NCLB.

However, “this dramatic increase did not result in either improved outcomes or evidence that new teachers who qualified with tougher tests were superior to teachers who didn’t,” she writes. “The research at best shows that smarter teachers give a teeny tiny boost to outcomes.”

States — not unions — set knowledge requirements for teacher credentialing, she writes. They struggle with disparate impact. “Set credentialing standards high, and you lose your black and Hispanic teachers.”

Reformers “unions promote pay scales that give all teachers the same raise, regardless of quality” and oppose performance pay.

Okay. So the very notion of a union is antithetical to getting competitive, performance-driven people who want rewards for their hard work.

But “there’s no point to performance pay if the objectives are delusions, she argues. If competitive, high-performance people became teachers, they’d be unable to raise outcomes and they’d quit.

The “big Kahuna of teacher union beefs” is that it’s hard to fire bad teachers.

If government unions ceased to exist tomorrow, teachers would still have Loudermill, the relatively recent Supreme Court decision that says that employment is a property right, and states can’t deprive their employees of property rights without due process. And most states have tenure written into their laws, independent of union contracts. So the changes necessary to undo teacher rights are far more than just dumping unions.

Oregon dropped tenure in favor of renewable two-year teaching contracts, but nothing changed. Oregon is below average in teacher dismissal rates, reports the Center for American Progress. While some states without tenure laws have high dismissal rates (Alabama, Alaska), others have low ones (Mississippi, Texas). The “bulk of the apparently onerous dismissal laws are encoded in state law, not in union contracts.

Teacher unions to blame for big pensions and “a compensation structure that repels competitive, performance-driven workers,” Education Realist concedes. However, “many of the teacher protections and all of the standards lie at the state level, entirely out of the union’s purview.”

Of course, teachers’ unions have a great deal of influence on state law.

San Jose teachers agree to ‘quality panel’

San Jose teachers have agreed to a contract that links pay increases to teaching skill rather than college credits and creates a career ladder for outstanding teachers, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Ineffective teachers could be denied a raise.

Instead of analyzing student test scores, the contract creates a teacher quality panel to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness. A proposal to pay teachers more to work at high-poverty, low-achieving schools was dropped.

While student performance will be part of the discussion on evaluations, teachers won’t be penalized if students don’t meet expectations.

“What will drive this is the belief that teachers can be trusted to self-assess,” San Jose Teachers Association president Jennifer Thomas said.

If the district finds outside sources of revenue, the contract will create new categories of teachers who will mentor, advise and evaluate their peers. With 30 years of experience, a “model” teacher could earn as much as $97,228 and a “master” teacher up to $112,278.

Across the state, teachers move up the salary schedule based on both longevity and college credits. Currently, a beginning San Jose Unified teacher with 44 credits beyond a bachelor’s degree earns $47,716 for working 186 days a year. Completing 16 more units adds more than $5,000; a master’s degree adds $2,576.

The new schedule will keep the longevity steps and degree stipends but replace the credits with categories based on skills and expertise.

Evaluations will be more detailed and will be done by both administrators and a team of teachers.

The contract lets the district add a third year to new teachers’ probationary status, rather than making a tenure-or-fire decision after two years. But that will require a state waiver.

Student performance must be part of teacher evaluations by California law, writes Chris Reed in Cal Watchdog.

Thanks to a 2012 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling, school districts in California are on notice that the 1971 Stull Act is still a binding state law. And among the law’s many provisions is a specific requirement that student performance be part of teacher evaluations.

Yet the way the Merc-News story reads, student performance can only be considered if it is positive — not if it is poor. Huh?

If the teacher quality panel decides that a tenured teacher isn’t doing a good job, does the teacher stay on, but without a raise?

According to Thomas, the teachers’ union president, a tenured teacher deemed ineffective by the panel can be moved to Peer Assistance and Review. Till now, that decision was made by the principal. “Now, the evaluations will be validated by a panel, not the single purview of an administrative evaluator. Additionally, if a teacher needs support or needs to improve, there will be another person to bring that to light if the administrator doesn’t. It’s a two-way system meant to make everyone better.”

Professor may lose job for Obama vote pledge

A math professor who told students to sign pledges to vote for President Obama’s re-election should be fired, President James Richey advised the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics with tenure at the Florida college, is “guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence,” concluded a report based on a three-month investigation.

Colleges turn to low-paid adjuncts

Colleges and universities are hiring part-time instructors for an average of $2,987 for a three-credit course. Adjuncts at rural community colleges average $1,808. Part-timers can be hired and fired as needed; few receive health insurance or other benefits.

About half of all college and university faculty — more than 70 percent at community colleges — are part-timers, estimates the American Federation of Teachers.

The education election

The status quo was a big winner, writes Rick Hess in his election wrap-up.

Those edu-advocates who’ve been telling themselves that an Obama win would mean a big infusion of dollars are going to be disappointed– the size of the deficit, the GOP majority in the House, the need to deal with Pell, the impending costs of the Affordable Care Act, and the rest mean that there won’t be big new dollars for education initiatives, no matter how often the President says nice things about edu-investment and workforce initiatives.

. . . The next few years may be something of a slog for folks at ED, as they have to do the tedious work of trying to monitor Race to the Top and waiver commitments, while figuring out how to be impactful when they don’t have much new money to spend . . .

It will be interesting to see who quits the Education Department, Hess writes.

If Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett’s re-election campaign was “a referendum on reform,”  as Fordham’s Mike Petrilli put it, reform lost. Bennett, a Republican who championed tougher teacher evaluations and school accountability, was upset by teacher Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.

Bennett was a reform “stud,” writes Hess. Teachers’ union opposition wouldn’t have been enough to defeat Bennett in “deep red” Indiana. He also faced opposition from Tea Party conservatives over his support for Common Core State Standards, which they call “Obamacore.”

Intentionally or not, the Obama administration has politicized the Common Core and, in so doing, is making it dangerous for elected Republicans in red states to support it. And, trust me, a lot of GOP state school board members, education committee members, and state chiefs are aware of what happened to Bennett.

Ed Week looks at Arne Duncan’s five big challenges in the next term. “Duncan will have to walk a fine line between supporting states as they implement common standards and tests, and, in the words of Checker Finn, not ”loving them to death.”

The Obama-Duncan education reforms are at risk, writes Rishawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. No ChIld Left Behind waivers are letting traditionalists and suburban districts gut accountability. He hopes Obama and Duncan will work with congressional leaders on both sides to revise No Child and expand accountability. But he’s not holding his breath.

School choice lost in Florida, where voters rejected a measure that would have let parents use school vouchers at religious schools.

However, Georgia approved a special commission to authorize new charters.

After turning down charter schools three times, voters in Washington state narrowly passed a charter school measure which will let 40 charters open statewide in the next five years. A majority of parents or teachers could “trigger” the conversion of a traditional public school into a charter.

In Idaho, where Romney won in a landslide, voters repealed the “Students Come First” laws, agreeing with teachers’ unions. It was “a stunning rebuke” to Republican Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent Tom Luna, writes the Idaho Statesman.

– 57 percent opposed to restrictions on teachers unions in Prop 1.

– 58 percent voted no on Prop 2, which paid teacher bonuses based on student test scores and other measures.

– 67 percent rejected a mandate for laptops and online credits for every Idaho high school student.

In red-hot South Dakota, two-thirds of voters rejected Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan to “give bonuses to top teachers, phase out tenure and recruit candidates for critical teaching jobs,” reports KSFY-ABC.

Michigan voters rejected a union-sponsored measure protecting collective-bargaining rights.

Maryland voters approved in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

To my surprise, California voters approved a tax increase billed as the only way to keep schools open. A political contributions initiative aimed at unions failed.

In Arizona, a sales tax extension to fund schools went down to defeat.

A new generation of teachers

“For the first time in memory, a majority of teachers have fewer than 10 years of experience,” write Celine Coggins, Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel in Expanding the Impact of Excellent Teachers in Education Next.

As the Teach Plus report Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession shows, early-career teachers want clear standards of excellence, performance measurement, and overhaul of compensation and tenure. They also want to get out of their classroom walls and collaborate with peers to meet student needs in flexible instructional groups.

Schools must create an “opportunity culture” to develop, retain and deploy excellent teachers, they write.

NYC denies tenure to 45% of eligible teachers

After three years in the classroom, New York City teachers are considered for tenure. Five years ago, 97 percent got it. This year, only 55 percent of eligible teachers earned tenure.

Only 3 percent of probationary teachers were fired. Forty-two percent were kept on probation for another year. “Of those whose probations were extended last year, fewer than half won tenure this year, a third were given yet another year to prove themselves, and 16 percent were denied tenure or resigned,” reports the New York Times.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has vowed to end “tenure as we know it,” notes the Times. He’s not the only one. Some 18 states have weakened teacher tenure rights and/or made tenure harder to get.

Idaho last year did away with tenure entirely by passing a law giving newly hired teachers no expectation of a contract renewal from one year to the next. In Florida, all newly hired teachers now must earn an annual contract, with renewals based upon their performance.

Last month in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation overhauling the nation’s oldest tenure law and making it easier for teachers to be fired for poor performance.

Tenure was virtually automatic in most state until a few years ago, said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “Tenure was looked at as much more of a sacred cow,” she told the Times. “Once states started to move on it, then the dominoes started to fall in other states.”