State news roundup for July 21, 2012
Montana – LR 123: Something wicked this way comes
A lot of outrageous ideas surfaced in the 2011 Montana Legislature: everything from creating armed militias in every town to seceding from the nation.
Most of these bad ideas died, but not all of them. One survivor is Legislative Referendum 123, a measure that gives tax rebates to the richest Montanans even if it means slashing funds for schools, public safety, and all other public services.
The 2011 Legislature passed a bill that automatically puts LR 123 on Montana’s November ballot. Governor Schweitzer vetoed dozens of bad bills, but state law prevents him from vetoing bad legislative referenda like LR 123.
Find out more about LR 123 at MEA-MFT.org.
Florida – New teacher evaluation system: artificial, humiliating
High-school chemistry teacher Steve Fannin was honored recently in Washington, D.C., as one of the nation’s best math and science educators. Fannin, a 31-year veteran of Tallahassee schools, has mastery of his subject and “exemplary” classroom skills, according to the judges of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Yet when Fannin was evaluated under Florida’s new teacher-assessment system, the results weren’t so impressive. A mid-year evaluation identified him as a “beginning” teacher. His failing? Fannin had erased the day’s “learning goal” from his board to make room for information to help his students grasp the chemistry lesson at hand. “It’s just been real frustrating all the way around,” Fannin said of the new system. “I don’t see how that promotes innovation. I don’t see how that helps student learning.” His views are echoed by teachers across the state, who say a classroom-observation system meant to improve their teaching instead reduces their work to what one Lyman High School educator called a “humongous checklist” of “artificial gestures.”
In some districts, for example, teachers felt judged mostly on whether their students used hand gestures to indicate how well they had learned something and on whether they wrote “learning goals” on the board every day. “I definitely felt it didn’t capture everything I was doing,” said Liz Randall, who teaches English at Lyman. “It’s been humiliating for a lot of extremely accomplished people,” added Mary Louise Wells, a longtime Orange County teacher who in 2002 was one of five finalists for the state teacher of the year award. “A lot of it is very clear, good educational practice,” Wells said of the new evaluation plan but it was implemented so quickly and so rigidly that it made “a mockery of what I think the goal is.” The system was introduced this past school year and is part of the new teacher evaluations required under a sweeping teacher merit-pay law (SB 736) the Florida Legislature adopted last year.
Visit FEAWeb.org to get the full story.
Louisiana – Q&A on Act 1 changes to teacher tenure and compensation
Act 1 of 2012 repeals the provisions surrounding tenure, compensation, and teacher evaluation that LAE worked so hard to implement over the years. Below are questions you might have concerning tenure and compensation changes.
If I’m a tenured teacher, do I retain tenure under ACT 1?
How do I continue to retain tenure under ACT 1?
Receive an evaluation rating that is above “ineffective” on the average of the “value-added” and “observation” portions of your evaluation each year.
How can I lose tenure under ACT 1?
Receive one performance rating of “ineffective.”
If I am rated “ineffective,” when would I lose my tenure rights under ACT 1?
The law states that you lose your tenure rights “immediately.”
Read the full list of FAQs at LAEducators.blogspot.com.
Ohio – The Ohio Education Association supports ETPI school funding testimony
On July 18, 2012, the Ohio House Education Committee held a second School Funding Hearing on tax policy. Howard Fleeter, representing the Education Tax Policy Institute (ETPI) provided testimony noting that, “taxes at both the state and local level play a clear role in the reliability of the funding system over time, and taxes at the local level also play a role in the equity of the funding system.”
The OEA believes all of us need to be accountable for providing the resources necessary for student success – students, teachers, parents and elected officials. That’s why our position on school funding and other education reforms is centered around students.
Currently, the school funding system in Ohio represents a patchwork of fixes that is overly complex and unexplainable. It relies far too much on the local property tax base to finance public education. As a result, Ohio students are watching opportunities slip away in the arts, physical education and advanced and foreign languages, not to mention the lack of resources for textbooks and computers.
Fleeter noted that currently Ohio ranks 36th in the nation in terms of state taxation but ranks 7th in local taxation. This means that Ohio relies very heavily on local taxation compared to other states. The Ohio Education Association concurs with Fleeter’s testimony and supports an equitable and adequate school funding formula that will prioritize state funding for schools and ease the reliance on local property tax – all to support student learning opportunities. A quality public education and a school funding formula that supports it should be Ohio’s top priority.
Get the full story at OHEA.org.
This week we talk about the Utah leadership academy looking at teacher evaluations, the dismal Massachusett’s Senate education budget, and feature video of Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year on activism and the recent lobby day in Illinois. Read More
This week we talk about devastating special education changes in New Jersey, a new school funding coalition in Colorado, a wrapup of Florida's legislative session and the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year on school funding. Read More