Thursday, April 5, 2012

Governor's Education "Deform" Passes Senate

Click on this link to read the Times Picayune article about HB 974.

HB 974 passed the Louisiana Senate Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 23-16. I will report the names of the Senators voting for and against the bill in my next post. The bill must now go back to the House floor for a vote because several amendments were added on the Senate floor. If the House approves the bill as amended, it would then go to the Governor for his signature. If the House rejects the amended bill, it would be sent to a conference committee that would most likely be controlled by allies of the Governor who would probably act to put the bill back close to its original form.

This an issue because the amendments to the bill may make it slightly more difficult for teachers to be fired for invalid reasons or because of personality conflicts between the teacher and the principal. One amendment added by Senator Adley would allow that a teacher who received a highly effective rating on the quantitative portion of the Act 54 evaluation, but an unsatisfactory rating by the principal on the qualitative portion of the evaluation, a chance to be reevaluated by a separate team of evaluators. I believe this scenario would be a rare occurrence that would affect very few teachers, but it is still good to have it in the bill. Unfortunately there is no such reconsideration for a teacher who receives a highly effective rating from his/her principal but who because of glitches in the value added formula or because of a class composition that does not perform as the mathematical model predicts it should, receives an ineffective rating on the quantitative portion. That teacher, according to the current plans by Superintendent White must be rated “ineffective” no matter how highly the principal has rated the teacher. The bottom line is that HB 974 does so much damage to the teaching profession based on ill conceived theories of teacher culpability for student under performance that no amendments can make it acceptable to the profession, in my opinion.

HB 976, which greatly expands charter schools, and adds almost unlimited vouchers for more students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense passed the Senate also. Senator Appel handled this bill as part of the Governor's reform package. HB 976 is equally ill conceived, and destructive to public education as HB 974. Unbelievably, in the name of education reform, this bill drops all education credentials for persons teaching in charter schools! My question is where were the deans of the Colleges of Education when this travesty to professional educators was debated in committee? How can they now justify the professional education curriculum in their colleges since they have not bothered to object? Maybe the Chancellor of their university said they should remain quiet for fear that the college funding would be further reduced by our all powerful governor. There is absolutely no excuse for this deafening silence!

Senator Appel in describing HB 974 and HB976 made it abundantly clear that he and the Governor believe that teachers are totally responsible for the performance or lack of performance of all students. In his introduction to HB 974, Appel portrayed all 700,000 plus students and their parents as hard working and hungry for a good education which they are being denied by many teachers! I just wish I could require him to substitute teach in one of our public schools plagued by absenteeism, discipline problems and disrespect for teachers. He would not survive even one day! Such an attitude by lawmakers and the Governor demonstrates a horrendous level of disrespect for the teaching profession. . . . . in my opinion!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Capitol Rally April 4

Educators, concerned parents and school board members should make every effort to attend the rally on the capitol steps this Wednesday morning starting at 9:00 a.m. If you care about the education profession and the future of public schools please attend so your protest can be seen by the legislature and the public!

In case you had any doubt . . .  HB 974 basically does away with due process for all educators, even those that are rated "highly effective". Just read the bill carefully. For example, the revision of the tenure law on page 12 amounts to a cynical hoax. It changes the tenure hearing process from a hearing before the local school board to a hearing before a three member panel. But two of the members are chosen by the local superintendent! The superintendent directly chooses one member, another member is the teacher's principal, and the third member is chosen by the teacher. This amounts to a kangaroo court. If the principal and the superintendent have agreed beforehand to dismiss the teacher, the teacher does not have a chance. It makes a mockery of due process.

The teacher can appeal to the courts but the expense of this action may be prohibitive for most teachers. In addition the language for judicial appeal is changed to remove the language "if found guilty" so that the review panel does not have to prove anything to allow dismissal. On page 13, line 22, the new language limits the court review to allow overturning the dismissal if the dismissal is found to be "arbitrary and capricious".

This sorry process applies to so called tenured teachers without regard to their Act 54 performance rating! Getting an effective rating does not protect any teacher from dismissal. For example, if a teacher refuses to sell tickets at the school football games, his/her job could be jeopardized. This new law allows the local superintendent to rewrite any teacher's job description to include after school duties, tutoring or even Saturday work etc. If the teacher refuses, he/she could be dismissed for willful neglect of duties. So basically all teachers become "at will" employees who serve at the pleasure of the local superintendent if this bill passes. 

To add insult to injury, HB 976 does away with the need for teacher certification for persons teaching in the new charter schools. You had to complete a teacher education program and pass the NTE or Praxis exam to become a teacher. These charter school teachers are exempted from all that unnecessary red tape.  Superintendent John White says he sees no special benefit to teacher education credentials (that may be because he has minimal credentials himself) or even National Board Certification, and the legislature is going along with him by passing this legislation.

In addition, the voucher schools will have basically no accountability except that which the Jindal controlled BESE decides to implement. Students in the public schools must pass the high stakes tests in 4th and 8th grades to be promoted, and all public school students must pass end of course exams to graduate.  But students attending the private voucher schools funded by taxpayer dollars can be promoted to the next grade even if they do no pass the state tests. There is also no requirement that voucher students pass the state end of course tests in high school in order to graduate. This double standard hypocrisy is called the Jindal Education Reform Plan!