Sunday, August 18, 2013

Following up . . .

In my last post I shared the federal warning that Superintendent Dorn received giving the state one more year to align our new teacher evaluation model with the federal education department's standards.  In other words, mandate that student assessment data be a significant influence on individual teacher evaluations or risk loss of the state's waiver from the requirements under NCLB.  Since then there have been many reports in local and national media.  Examples are here in the Tacoma News Tribune and here in Russo's This Week In Education.

Below, is an excerpt from an OSPI press release taking a positive spin on being given another year to conform.

The Dept. of Education objected to the word “can.” In its letter explaining the use of the term “high risk,” the Department wrote that “Washington’s interpretation of including student growth as a significant factor in educator evaluation systems is inconsistent with the ESEA Flexibility definition of ‘student growth.”

Dorn said he wasn’t surprised that the new waiver was deemed high-risk. “When the Legislature was debating 5895, I said that the language didn’t go far enough,” he said. “The Department of Education agrees with me. Now the Legislature has the next session to strengthen the law.

So, why in the world are we and the other 294 districts in the state struggling to find structures for using student assessment data if next spring the legislature will simply change the requirements to conform to this threat?  Will they say it needs to be 30%, 40%, 50%, or will WEA decide to take a stand and make this a divisive and more difficult task?

Please know the alternative isn't any better.  If we lose the waiver and once again are under NCLB guidelines ALL students must meet standard in 2014 on our state assessments, a worthy goal, but one that makes little sense given the current structures in the public schools in our state and nation.  So, our current reality is one of conforming to the arbitrary standards being imposed at the federal level under threat of take overs and loss of revenue.  Implement an assessment model driven more by the beliefs of education reformers than by any research supporting the use of student assessment data in improving achievement or compensation models, the next iteration of these reforms, or risk take overs and loss of revenue.

It is obvious that I struggle with this reality and with the leverage the federal education department has over our state and ultimately how we allocate our resources to support young people and teachers in our system.  If I believed that the mandates and threats had the capacity to support our journey my mental model would be more positive.  Given the current situation, however, and what I believe are the drivers for these mandates and the accompanying threats, it is difficult for me to suspend my assumptions.  I choose to take this next year and focus on what we were told was the driver for the teacher and principal evaluation legislation, supporting teacher growth over time.  As long as we control how student assessment data is used growth will be the driver for our efforts.  When, and if we are told this is how it will be used it will be more difficult to maintain this focus, one that has the potential to influence and sustain changes in classroom practice that will lead to increased student achievement.

Why does it have to be so difficult to find a vision that supports what all of us say we want, success for all young people in school and in post high school learning and work?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sure you still feel positive about how we educators are perceived? In the last post you chose to quote me, when I spoke of people not understanding our role as a professional. It was not the parents I was speaking too, it is the policy makers. Change is hard pressed to happen if the same people hire the same people they have mentored. The professional policy makers choose to use tactics that scare us, like making 100% pass. Even at our best, and we here in Tahoma have been the best, had a 95% in some of the WASL categories. But 100%? Can any policy maker say their bills are 100% effective and helpful to all people? It is to these people I speak to. It's hard to NOT be high up on that ladder when dealing with expectations that is SO very difficult to achieve!