HB 478 by Representative Simone Champagne who represents Iberia and Vermilion Parishes is purportedly an attempt to keep the best teachers in the classroom when teacher layoffs are necessary. (Click on the bill number to see the bill) It would do away with all seniority rights of teachers in determining the teachers selected for layoff and would instead use the teacher's ranking on the new Act 54 evaluation system. This means that the teachers ranking lowest on the evaluation system in a category targeted for layoff would be the first to be laid off. To the average observer, this may seem to be a fair and logical method for determining which teachers will stay and which will go in the event of a layoff. But let me explain the serious pitfalls of such a system.
Suppose a school system experiences a
drop of student enrollment because maybe a large employer in the area shifts
operations to another state causing many families to move.
Suppose the local Superintendent determines that four teachers must
be laid off from grades 3 through 5 out of a teaching staff totaling
25 teachers. Lets assume that all 25 teachers scored above the 50th
percentile on the Act 54 evaluation system which included
satisfactory scores on the VAM portion by all 25 teachers. Let's also
assume that the variation in scores were distributed over a 20
percentile range. This new law would require the local superintendent
to lay off the bottom scoring 4 teachers without consideration of
seniority. The problem is that statewide data analyzed so far
indicates that teacher scores on VAM can often fluctuate by more than
20 percentile points from year to year even if the teacher teaches
exactly the same way from year to year. Let's also suppose that two of
the bottom 4 teachers on the ranking are within 3 years of retirement
and they both have had excellent employment records and evaluations
from their principals for all of their years as teachers. Let's also
assume that their scores differed from the top scoring teacher by
only 15 percentile points. The VAM data collected so far by
the state indicates that this scenario is quite possible. If this
law passes, the local superintendent would be forced to ignore all
other factors and lay off these teachers who may have devoted their
entire careers to this school system. They would be denied their full
retirement benefits. I submit that such a law would be cruel and
uncaring of the contributions a teacher has made over a long career.
That's why I stated in an earlier post that these so called “reform”
laws would change the employment status of a professional educator to
the level of a teenage grocery store clerk!
The Louisiana legislature has no
business interfering with local employment decisions based on this
unstable evaluation system. How would they like it if the legislature
dictated to their employer how to lay them off?
This type of micro management would not be tolerated by any other
profession. What if we mandated that doctors and lawyers be hired and
fired based on their number of successful patients or clients. We know that these professionals cannot always control the
behavior of their patients or clients. The same uncertainty of
success also applies to teachers.
But here is the part that adds insult
to injury for professional public school educators. This law would
not apply to the voucher schools that may receive taxpayer support at
the insistence of the Jindal administration. If they receive our tax
monies for education why are they treated differently? This is just
another one of the many double standards being applied to give a free
ride to the voucher schools at the expense of Louisiana taxpayers.
Please consider talking to or sending
an email to your legislators asking them to vote against this House
Bill 478. This is a bill which is certain to further demoralize the
teaching profession in Louisiana.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
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