Thursday, February 28, 2013

Education and the courts . . .
Learned this morning in a post that in a 6 to 3 vote the State Supreme Court struck down the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes.  This opens up the possibility for revenue for schools, but with one house supporting revenue increases and the other plus the Governor saying they won't support a tax increase it will be interesting to watch how this decision unfolds in the complicated environment in Olympia.  A couple comments from the post, one from Chris Korsmo of the League of Education voters and the second from Senator Pam Roach capture the huge divide in belief around this issue.

"This ruling is a huge win for kids and schools," said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, one of the lead plaintiffs. "Washington schools need to be fully funded in order to ensure that all kids reach their potential. This ruling, combined with the recent McCleary decision, will help ensure that our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education."

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said the court had opened the floodgates of taxation with its ruling. The chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee has already proposed a constitutional amendment to make the two-thirds majority permanent.

"This is a seminal point in our history," she said, noting that the people in every county have already shown their support for a two-thirds tax rule.

Another education issue has found its way into the court room.  In this January 9th post and earlier posts I shared about the possibility of  a lawsuit against charter schools if WEA could find partners.  Well, it seems as if they were successful as they filed a legal challenge with the state attorney general questioning the constitutionality of the law.  WEA was joined in this effort by the League of Women Voters and El Centro del la Rosa.  If the attorney general does not take action on the seven constitutional issues that were raised they will file a lawsuit.

In this Education Week article we see how Attorney General Ferguson responded last night.

"We all share the desire to provide the highest quality education for our children. As the state's attorney, it's my responsibility to defend the will of the voters and I will be directing my legal team to do so in this case," Ferguson said in a statement.

One of the arguments supporting the legal challenge relates to funding for public schools.

. . .The group's issues range from the way the law would divert money from public schools to private nonprofit organizations, to a perceived violation of the requirement that the superintendent of public instruction should supervise everything related to public schools.

Looks like another education issue to be resolved in the court system, most likely headed to the State Supreme Court.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wondering about sequestration . . .

I assume you have been reading about and hearing a lot about the likelihood of sequestration and the possible impact on schools across the country.  If it takes place as expected there will be a 5.3% cut to the federal education department budget effective March 1st.  Fortunately, any potential cut would not be in place until the 2013-14 budget.

So, what might this mean for us?  The first area where we would experience a cut is to our Title 1 program that currently supports our elementary reading intervention program.  Because of our relatively low free and reduced lunch numbers, we receive less than $100,000 in Title 1 funding so a 5.3% cut would not be significant in our budget.

The second area where we receive federal funding is in our special needs program with about $1.3 million.  We also last year received about an additional $1 million through the federal safety net program.  This is critical funding for this program, but if a 5.3% cut were in place we can plan for it in next year's budget through student placement decisions.

This is one time where not receiving significant federal funding is actually a positive for our system.  Districts that receive a significantly higher percentage of their funding from the federal government will experience the more dramatic cuts that we hear about in the media as will other departments where the cuts will be felt immediately.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In need of stability and support . . .

If you follow my blog you know that I have been advocating for "stability" to be the driver in Olympia as opposed to the reform agenda we see coming from many legislators in both houses.  The two main reasons for the need for stability are not, in my mind, driven by funding, but additional funding would support the work.  This position does not diminish my advocacy for new funding to meet the McCleary directive from the State Supreme Court, but the immediate tension comes from another place.

So, what are the two drivers for stability.  In our work I believe that they are the implementation of the new Teacher Principal Evaluation Plan and the transition to the Common Core.  Both of these initiatives are multi-year, system level change efforts that should not be asked of us at the same time.  I am not arguing the merits of either initiative though you know my thinking related to TPEP, what concerns me is the complexity of each and the stress that they bring to our work.

We should not be faced with additional change initiatives out of Olympia while we find resources to meet the demands of these initiatives.  It is time to balance the high demand with high support out of Olympia, not increase the demand.  No new changes is a part of high support.

Andy Smarick at Education Next shares in this post, The Common Core Implementation Gap, some of the same reasons I have for concern.  One of those is combining the two initiatives in most states at the same time.

For example, even the best state departments of education were fretting about the massive challenges associated with overhauling educator evaluation systems before Common Core implementation was front and center. Student achievement data for untested grades and subjects and inter-rater reliability of observations were keeping smart folks up at night when state content standards, teacher professional standards, and assessments were static.

With changes afoot in all of these areas, teacher-evaluation reform has gotten exponentially more difficult. 

In it, he questions a report done by Education First and EPE Research Center on the status of state level implementation of the Common Core.  The report suggests that states are better off then they were last year and are in pretty good shape.  Smarick questions this premise and after reviewing how our state responded to the survey questions, I share his concern.

Our state responded that teacher professional development plans are "Complete" for the Common Core as is the teacher evaluation plan.  Our experience would suggest otherwise.  Our Teaching and Learning Department, in partnership with other districts, are the primary support for Common Core implementation.  It would be good to know what "Complete" means as it would related to the evaluation plan.

Smarick captures the issue.

The report’s upside is that we now know more about state-level planning. The downside is that we know nothing more about the quality of that planning—and this is the whole ball of wax.

 Looking back at the table above, captures additional lack of support in the middle column where our state responded to the questions about curriculum guides and instructional materials by stating "No planning activity reported", something we know well.  Of the forty-eight states that have adopted the Common Core, thirty are providing support in this critical area where each district in our state must do it on their own or form collaboratives.  I guess this would be an example of wanting to provide "local control" - too bad we don't have more of that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Uncomfortable, but necessary . . .

Yesterday, Scott Mitchell and I did a video for use in all buildings to "formally" introduce staff to how the Teacher Principal Evaluation Plan will become a part of our Classroom 10 work.  We used this method so that a common message could be delivered without having to bring people together or attend multiple meetings.  Though neither Scott or I like being in front of the camera, it made sense so we did it.

I'd like to say I enjoyed making the video, but that would not be the truth.  We first tried it in the Shadow Lake Library, but for technical and "performance " reasons our director, Dawn Wakeley, decided that we would move to the Central Office and use the large screen TV.  We did that yesterday and it turned out OK.  Two takes and no practice sessions isn't bad for two guys that would rather be in the background.
I have been video taped before while teaching in leadership classes that I joke about, but actually those sessions don't bother me.  I am comfortable with the content and the camera in the back is easily put out of my mind.  Standing in front of the camera, however, is nowhere near as easy for me.  I'm uncomfortable, my throat constricts, and I don't know where to look.  Even with all of this, the video does convey an important message; TPEP will not become the focus for our work, it will instead become another component of our Classroom 10 journey.

Principals will share the video in the next few weeks.  Once that is done, we will post it on the web page and I will share in a post to my faithful 79 readers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A reminder of the gap . . .

Nick J. Brossoit, Superintendent of the Edmonds School District and current President of the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) sent an email today sharing a letter that went to every member of the legislature.  The focus of the letter was reminding the legislators of their constitutional requirement to uphold the State Constitution including the order from the State Supreme Court to fully fund education in the McCleary case.  

This letter is timely given the lack of conversation thus far on this topic in Olympia and the likelihood that the Senate budget, the first one to be released sometime in mid to late March, will not include new revenue.  There are Senators who are much more engaged in pushing further reforms than they are in finding revenue to support the court order.  The chart below that was sent with the letter highlights the difficult road that these legislators face to comply with full funding by 2018.  I believe that those legislators that think they can take care of this requirement without new revenue are simply using the McCleary decision for trade offs for additional reforms.  

I look forward to hearing from the Senators and the Governor on how they will make steady progress to fill the gap between our current reality of about $9,300 per student and the $12,500 needed by 2018 to comply with the court order.  That gap is too great to not begin the steady progress with this biennium, unless in some way they are able to once again redefine "basic education" in a way that lowers the gap.  I am concerned that there is not a shared aspiration in the legislature needed for the creative tension to find new and adaptive structures to close the gap.  Without a shared aspiration this will continue to be a political and not an educational issue in Olympia.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waiting for the waiver . . .

Until I read this Tacoma News Tribune article I had forgotten that our state waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and NCLB was conditional.  Last week OSPI updated the federal education department on the status of the two areas that have held up finalizing the waiver.  The two areas of concern are completing a new teacher and principal evaluation system and completing a school accountability system.  According to OSPI Assistant Superintendent Bob Harmon progress is being made in both areas.

"Both of those are in progress," he said. "They're checking to make sure we are implementing as we said we would and seem satisfied with us at this point."

What is interesting to me and shared in the article are the bills in Olympia intended to change both of these areas before the state is granted a permanent waiver.  One of the bills would change the evaluation model by requiring more weight be given to student test scores.  A separate bill would change the accountability system by giving schools letter grades instead of more general descriptions. Wouldn't it make more sense to implement the changes before making more?  Even though the changes may resonate with the reform minded federal department, wouldn't it make more sense to get the waiver under the drafted guidelines before making more changes?  Once again, we should be focused on providing stability as we implement these mandated programs, not more reforms.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A mentor responds to proposed "reforms" . . .

Over the weekend I met one of my mentors, Jack Frost, in the detergent aisle at the grocery store.  Jack was a principal and assistant superintendent in our system for many years.  He gave me my first position in the curriculum department and when he retired I took his place as Director of Instruction.  I learned many things from Jack with the importance of integrity being at the top of the list.  I will always be thankful to him for providing me with the opportunity to begin my leadership journey.

Our conversation naturally drifted to the state of education and the issues we currently face in our state.  Without prompting, Jack shared that he had recently listened to a speech on the need for changes in education by a leader in the State Senate that had upset him.  He said he wasn't a letter writer, but he was considering changing that because of what he heard.  Even though he is no longer connected to the work, he can see similar words in the message from today's Senate reformers to what he heard years ago.  It may have been the speech below that resulted in Jack's decision to consider writing a response.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rewrite instead of scrapping . . .

In this February post, I talked about a Senate bill attempting to define the school day in a way that would eliminate the ability for early release, late arrival, and waiver days.  The way the bill was written it would also have eliminated a weather-related late start by not allowing it to be counted as one of the required 180 days. SB 5588 made it out of committee, but with very different language.  Testimony before the Senate K-12 Early Childhood and Education Committee convinced the members that the bill was unworkable, but instead of scrapping it they decided to make their point in another way.

From This week In Education we learn that instead of throwing it out they decided to study it that will include some type of new reporting by us.

... they gutted the original bill and replaced it with language requiring the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) to “study” the issue. If adopted as amended, JLARC would be required to “conduct an analysis of how school districts use school days.” A report to the Legislature would be required by December 2014.

Under the new SB 5588, JLARC’s analysis would be required to include:
• how school districts define classroom time, non-classroom time, instructional time, non-instructional time, and any other definitions of how the school day is divided or used;
• estimates of time in each category;
• when non-instructional hours occur;
• how non-instructional hours are used, including how much of the non-instructional time is devoted to professional development for the purposes of teacher and principal evaluation training or common core state standards training; and
• the extent the use of each category of time is identified or defined in collective bargaining agreements.

They obviously want us to get the message that they want kids in school six hours a day for 180 days.  We have many teachers that feel the same way and so do I.  Unfortunately, I also see the need for staff development so that those hours maximize the potential for all young people to be prepared for the mandated assessments required by policy makers and for implementing the mandated evaluation systems.  If they would couple this change with the ten paid staff development days called for in the basic education legislation and allow for weather-related late starts this point would make sense.  As it stands, it would make more sense to scrap the bill instead of another study that isn't needed, something that the new majority in the Senate are not likely to do with any of their "reform" bills.

When second is disappointing . . .

Our Bear wrestlers did great at Mat Classic XXV taking second place in state. In many years this would be a celebration, but after winning it last year the kids and coaches went in with high expectations. Unfortunately, they fell short of their goal.  We had three wrestlers make it to the final match in their weight class, but fell short of their goal of an individual championship.  They are Tim Whitehead, Gabe Boynay, and Matt Hopkins.  It looked as if Hopkins won with a take down in the first over time period, but the referee didn't give him the points resulting in a 2-1 heart breaking loss.  We also had two wrestlers take third, Ed Torres and Cruz Velasquez.

Our boy and girl basketball teams also played this weekend to see if they could advance to the state playoffs, but were unable to win so their seasons are over.  Both, however, did well getting into the regionals.      Also playing and performing this weekend were those Tahoma gymnasts and boy swimmers who qualified for state.  Thanks to all these athletes for their commitment to their sport and for representing our high school at these events.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Recommendations for support fall short . . .

In 2012 the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) supported by the Washington Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project (WA TPEP) steering committee, and the Education Service Districts (ESDs) commissioned the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to study the readiness, needs, expectations, and concerns of all educators in the state as they relate to implementation of the Teacher Principal Evaluation Plan and Common Core State Standards.  As I have shared, these are two major changes that are causing anxiety in our system and that are beginning to consume much of our time and other resources related to professional development.

On the TPEP web page, I found a link to the Institutes's fifty-nine page report.  The findings are based on an invitation in the fall of 2012 to teachers, principals, superintendents, and school directors to complete a brief survey about their district’s educator evaluation system and Common Core State Standards implementation. A total of 15,793 (26.2 percent) of the 60,251 possible K–12 educators in the state completed the survey.

Though I haven't had a chance to review in detail, two things jumped out at me, one in the common core and one in the evaluation findings.  The first is shown below by the response from the participants that, given current structures, finding the time to implement the new evaluation model is the most common concern.  This would be consistent from what we are learning from our principals and those teachers that have been involved in training thus far.  What I find interesting is the large percentage of principals and superintendents who do not see this as the major concern.  Though I have many other areas of concern such as rater reliability, in our current reality time may be the most difficult barrier to overcome for many of our building administrators

Related to the Common Core implementation is this finding where at least 30% of teachers, principals, and school directors do not have any major worries at the time of the survey.  I wonder if that result is driven by a lack of knowledge and understanding of the instructional practice and assessment requirements embedded in the shift to the Common Core.  I also need to check what "Other" worries were identified by 35% of the superintendents who responded.
The Institute also made four recommendations to guide OSPI in balancing the high demand with high support.  Unfortunately, I find the recommendations far from sufficient to support implementation of these two important mandates.  We need resources that free principals up to do the work and/or increased staffing to meet the demands of the evaluation model.  We need curriculum and assessment resources and alignment support to meet the demands of the Common Core.  Opportunities to learn, communication plans and strategies, and training plans fall short of providing the high support that these mandated initiatives require for effective and efficient implementation that results in increased student achievement.

 Provide opportunities and resources for districts to learn from the TPEP pilot districts.
 Provide strategic support around communication plans, and assist districts in selecting appropriate instructional and leadership frameworks.
 Provide coordinated support and resources to districts to assist them in their efforts to provide district wide training for their teachers and principals on their new evaluation systems.
 Provide specific help to districts in their efforts to develop a clear message about how they will address educator concerns around time concerns, feasibility of implementation, fairness, and training needs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breaking new ground . . .

Big night in the Tahoma High School gym as our league champion and second seeded Bears took on the Olympia Bears in the first round of the boy's basketball tournament.  This is the first league championship for the Bears in the South Puget Sound League and the first playoff game hosted  in our gym in many, many years.  It was truly a home crowd advantage as the yellow clad Bear fans rocked the house with the pep band, drum line, cheerleaders, and dance team.  Yes, I said yellow clad because the Bears from Olympia share the color blue, the twitter feed went out promoting yellow t-shirts.

The team responded by beating Olympia 68 to 57 advancing to the second round of the playoffs on Friday evening in Tacoma.

It was a great night, but the win creates a competing commitment for me as our Bear wrestlers will be shooting for their second state championship in a row Friday night at Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome.  Many of you know that this has historically been my favorite high school sporting event, one that I have not missed attending on parts of Friday and Saturday for many years.  So, this is a welcome competing commitment created by our successful basketball team that I may be able to find a compromise for as both events will be in Tacoma.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why not education first . . .

One of the bills in the House is HB 1174, a bill that House Republicans have introduced to Fund Education First.  As the name suggests, the proposal is to first develop an education budget  signed by the governor before any additional appropriations can be made.  If enacted, it would be supportive of our work, but at what cost?

This editorial in the Issaquah Press questions the motives of the House Republicans with this proposed legislation.

House Republicans said their proposal to split the budget was meant to address the state Supreme Court’s 2012 decision that the Legislature wasn’t funding education properly. That might be more believable if they hadn’t been pushing the measure every year since 2006.

In reality, the plan had little to do with education and more to do with stripping funding from the sorts of social programs the GOP has never liked to begin with.

If education were funded first, there would be less left over for everything else, and “everything else” contains some important programs which also contribute to education.

I don't question the motives that the editorial raises, but I struggle with the outcome if the bill were to become law.  It could mean devastating cuts to non-education programs that support young people and families, cuts that would then impact the capacity of  young people to experience success in school.  Though I would very much like the stability of an education first budget, it is difficult to support this proposal because of the potential impacts on other current government programs.  What are your thoughts, do you support this bill?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Questioning the value of observations . . .

This Education Week article is one that reinforces my concern with the new teacher evaluation model in our state.  Unlike models in other states, ours does not mandate a specific percentage of the final score being driven by student performance on state or other assessments.  My concern is with a possible move in this direction during this legislative session with SB 5246 that would among other things require weighting student growth to consist of 50% of the summative performance of teachers and principals for at least three of the evaluation criteria.

What troubles me with the Education Week article is that in other states the first cycle of implementation of these new models is not yielding the results expected or desired by policy makers.  The results are not changing prior practice related to ratings and are not differentiating between "good" and "poor" teachers.

In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or betterRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader under new teacher-evaluation systems recently put in place. In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or betterRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Principals in TennesseeRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader judged 98 percent of teachers to be "at expectations" or better last school year, while evaluators in GeorgiaRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader gave good reviews to 94 percent of teachers taking part in a pilot evaluation program.

It is still to early to draw conclusions from this early data, but I am concerned with what may be perceived as a weak component and one that is yielding these high rankings, the observation.  Regardless of the model, it will be difficult for building administrators to radically change their practice and ratings in a short period of time and still maintain a positive culture of change and growth.  In this situation, value added analysis gains credibility.

"Value added" is a statistical method of estimating the effect of a teacher's instruction on his or her students' test scores.

Tennessee's data released last summer show, for instance, that observers gave only 0.2 percent of teachers the lowest score, compared to quantitative measures that put 16.5 percent of teachers in that category.

Differences such as these in Tennessee, feed into those advocating for value added and the use of student assessment data to remove the focus from teacher growth to student performance.  Those advocating for SB 5246 can use the data to support their position because as reformers point out, there should be far more teachers rated "needs improvement" than we are currently experiencing.  Even though we don't as of yet have data in our state, this information will be used to support this reform effort.  Though I believe that we need to focus on student performance, I question this becoming the focus of what is stated to be a growth model.

For our model to be reliable, we must ensure that administrators and others can document quality instructional practice, collaboratively with the teacher identify an area of growth, and have the capacity to provide the feedback and support necessary for success that sustains over time.  From our experience we know that this is difficult to achieve, but it is a commitment that we make to our teachers as we move into this new evaluation model.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A need to dig deeper . . .

Tomorrow there will be a public hearing on HB 1450, the bill that Superintendent Dorn has endorsed to reduce the number of assessments necessary to meet graduation requirements.  Current legislation will require students to meet standard on five assessments; reading, writing, biology, algebra, and biology.  HB 1450 will reduce that to three including a combined reading/writing, biology and one math assessment.  Below is the announcement from OSPI about tomorrow's hearing.

Dorn to Testify on Assessment Reform Bill
House Bill 1450 would drop number of exams needed for graduation to three

I first posted about this in December when Superintendent Dorn said that it would be an algebra assessment.  In the announcement today it said a math assessment.

The bill would combine the reading and writing tests into a single English Language Arts test, and it would eliminate one of the math tests, reducing the required tests to three.

Eliminating one math assessment is a big deal, but so is knowing if it is algebra or geometry.  So, I went to the Bill Digest and found that it does not say what the specific math requirement will be, but I learned about two other provisions in the bill that don't appear in the headlines and were not part of the December Seattle Times Op-Ed where I first learned about the proposal.

HB 1450 - DIGEST
Declares an intent to: (1) Begin administering the college-ready and career-ready assessments that are being developed to measure the common core state standards in the 2014-2015 school year;
(2) Combine the current reading and writing assessments into English language arts assessments;
(3) Reduce the number of different assessments that will be required for students to graduate beginning with the class of 2015; and
(4) Decentralize the scoring of the collections of evidence.

Those highlighted were not new to me, but this is the first time I have seen them in a bill and they have big consequences for our system.  One means we would officially begin administering the Common Core Assessments in the 2014-15 school year.  Four means that the responsibility for collecting and scoring collections of evidence (alternative assessment method) would shift from OSPI and the ESD to the local district.  Currently we are given $400 to support the collection of evidence that are submitted to the ESD for scoring.  If the HB 1450 were to be enacted scoring would become our responsibility with no revenue for the added responsibility.

Now, back to math.  I went to the House Summary of the bill for further information and found that the math assessment would be for algebra.  At he same time I learned that future graduation requirements can be met with state assessment or Common Core assessments.

Brief Summary of Bill
  • ŸŸChanges the statewide assessment system from measuring student performance in reading and writing to measuring performance in English Language Arts (ELA).
  • Ends the Geometry end-of-course test (EOC) after the 2012-13 school year.
  • Provides that, beginning with the graduating class of 2015, students may meet the high school graduation standard using an ELA exit exam or a College and Career Readiness (CCR) assessment in ELA.
  • Provides that students beginning with the class of 2015 may use results from the Algebra I EOC or a CCR assessment in mathematics for graduation purposes.
  • Directs the Washington Student Achievement Council to convene a workgroup to examine how a CCR assessment might be used for higher education decisions.
  • Changes the Collection of Evidence alternative assessment from being scored by a state-level panel to being scored at the district level.
You can learn more about this same topic in this Education Week article from today.  In the article I learned that we are the only state that requires five assessments for graduation while in 26 states there are no tests for graduation.  I also learned that WEA President Lindquist would like to go further and call a moratorium on high-stakes testing.

Trying to follow the trail of education legislation in Olympia means digging beyond headlines and newspaper summaries of the bill.  I support the provisions of 1450 that change the number of assessments for graduation purposes, but do not want our system to assume responsibility for collecting and scoring the collection of evidence  portfolios estimated at $400 per student.  This would simply be passing the costs from the state to the districts.  Following this trail is complex and time consuming, but very important.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Learning about 5D+ . . .

Our administrative team and Teaching & Learning coaches spent the day in our first of five Regional Implementation Grant (RIG) training days focused on implementing the new teacher evaluation model, the 5D+ from CEL.  For some, it was the first opportunity to learn about the various terminology and formats used by the developers to focus on instructional capacity and supporting teacher growth.  For others, it was a continuation of work we have been engaged with in other learning opportunities.

Reflecting on the day, I leave with the belief that we will find ways to make this requirement a positive contributor to our Classroom 10 journey.  It will require collaboration and the capacity to focus on adapting to a new reality, not one that was mandated, but one that supports our belief in the importance of instructional practice, growth over time, and feedback.  The tools in the model will increase our capacity for this focus.  The journey, however, will not be without bumps along the road as the process is complex, includes issues with emotional attachment for teachers, and will require new structures to become efficient and effective.

Though we know that some buildings have had opportunities to engage in conversations about 5D+, Scott Mitchellg and I are developing a video to formally introduce all staff to the model.  This will be followed by continued bargaining around the parameters for the work and introduction of the framework at all buildings.

By the way, our own  Shadow Lake Principal, Chris Everett, is one of  our trainers, chosen last year in a competitive process at the state level.

Monday, February 4, 2013

An unfortunate future . . .

As much as I would like to move away from posts about the happenings in Olympia, it becomes more and more difficult when I read articles like the one in today's Seattle Times.

‘Battle royale’ on schools expected in Legislature

Three weeks into the legislative session, lawmakers appear divided on the key issue of improving schools. With the Senate focused on reform and the House focused on funding, observers are predicting a “battle royale” of negotiations.

The article does a nice job of capturing the differences between the House and Senate and the sideline role being played thus far by Governor Inslee as it relates to education bills.  Reading the article once again leaves me deeply concerned with the potential for compromises to the new reforms currently being discussed and those slated for a future hearing  The strategy is one of putting the bills in motion and then at the end of the session forcing through some of them as a condition to agreeing on a final budget. 

Three weeks into the session, lawmakers and education advocates say the dynamics could add up to complicated negotiations in which change-minded senators demand new policies in exchange for new funding.

“Clearly, both parties are positioning right now for a showdown that will probably take place at the very end of the session,” said Rick Chisa, a spokesman for the Public School Employees of Washington. “It’ll come down to a battle royale between Democrats and Republicans over how much money to put in and what the other side will get in return.”

What are some of those reforms?

The positioning started in earnest last week in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, where Republicans introduced bills that would grade every school, create a state-run district for low-performing schools and give principals the ability to refuse teachers assigned to their building, among other ideas. . . . Eight controversial measures have been introduced, including bills to give bonuses to math and science teachers; to make student test scores a bigger part of teacher evaluations; and to prohibit most third-graders from advancing to fourth grade until they pass the state reading test.

As Chisa said above, I fear another session where we find out after the fact that new reform legislation has been agreed to because a budget was not possible without it.  The more measures that make it through the Senate the more leverage they will have to implement these measures in May or June or whenever the session comes to a close.  Though engaging in the political debate is not something that I enjoy, I choose to engage this year because of what I see as the potential for even more uncertainty when what we need is greater stability and I encourage you to consider the role that you will play.  Though much of the focus has been on how much money will this session generate to meet the funding requirements of the McCleary decision, I see these bills as having the potential for greater harm to our work than less dollars to implement the reforms already in place.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Perseverance . . .

Check out this video from a Larry Ferlazzo post.  It is a wonderful example of perseverance and also of changing strategies in pursuit of a goal when there are setbacks.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Education bills flowing in Senate . . .

There have been many education bills proposed in the first weeks of the session, many on the Senate side with the new leadership that I shared in this post.  Two of those bills are the focus of this Seattle Times editorial from Thursday.

Editorial: Bills to grade schools, hold back third-graders well-meaning but problematic

The State Senate Education Committee falls short in efforts to rate schools and ensure all third-graders can read.

Senate Bill 5328 is a bill designed to grade schools A-F and Senate Bill 5237 would hold back third graders reading below grade level.  I agree with the Times on these two bills.  They take the focus away from the need to meet the funding requirements of the McCleary decision and implementing the reforms that we already face.

Another potential bill that surfaced last week would eliminate the opportunity for any early release or waiver days.  The bill that will have a hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee would change the definition of a school day to be a minimum of six hours, taking away the possibility for early release. This is a bill that we need to watch and ensue that we communicate with our legislators the impact on our staff development program if this bill becomes law.   

We first learned about the bill Thursday in a Washington State School Directors post where they attributed it to the State Board  of Education. On Friday they apologized for the error.

The January 31 report attributed the draft bill to the State Board of Education. This is incorrect, and WSSDA sincerely regrets the error. It is unclear which legislator and/or organization is promoting this approach at this time.

The State Board is concerned with the loss of instructional time to early release and waiver days, but also sees the need for staff development so they are proposing that five Learning Improvement Days be funded.  In the video below, SBE Executive Director Ben Rarick shares their thinking.