Ramona Hattendorf, who was the Seattle president of the PTA and is now a lobbyist for the Washington State PTSA, proudly announced in her newsletter, “Grassroots Connection”, this morning the passage through the State Senate of Ed Reform Bill 1443.

Before I go any further I would like to mention that the PTA in our state jumped on the bandwagon of ed reform two years ago with the Community Values Statement that was pushed by the Washington State PTA, Stand for Children, the Alliance for Education and a faux roots organization that popped up out of nowhere and has since disappeared, the Our Schools Coalition. The Community Values Statement began to circulate just before contract negotiations were to begin with the teacher’s union and the then Broad superintendent. This “statement” began to introduce the idea of “teacher effectiveness” being correlated to student performance, the ed reform mantra.

The Community Values Statement surfaced after NCTQ came to town and announced that seniority was bad, that teachers took off too much sick time and that under-prepared teachers were just as good as educated, trained and certificated professional teachers. Oh yes, and that a Master’s degree in teaching really doesn’t matter and should not be compensated for. That was the first shot fired over the bow by the Gates and Broad funded ed reform movement in our state and the Gates funded PTA, LEV and Alliance for Education ran with it by creating the Community Values Statement. This was also during the time that Brad Bernatek, a former Broad Resident, came out with a graduation rate of 17%, a shockingly low number. Just this year, it was determined that the rate is 63%, but the number did what it was supposed to do, it manufactured a crisis. First you manufacture a crisis and then you manufacture consent.

Getting back to Bill 1443, let’s start with Section 401, firing teachers based on student performance when a rif, a Reduction in Force, is required due to “revenue loss or enrollment decline”. This aspect of the bill was unsuccessful on two earlier attempts, see House Bill 1593 and Senate Bill 5667 and Senate Bill 5594. This is the wording of the proposed section:

When reductions in the workforce occur due to enrollment decline or revenue loss, the employment contracts of any certificated classroom teacher must be nonrenewed in the following manner within each particular certification or endorsement area. Certificated classroom teachers who received the lowest evaluation rating, as described in RCW 28A.405.100 must have their contracts nonrenewed first.

(2) The board of directors of each school district shall adopt a written policy governing procedures for the nonrenewal of employment contracts for certificated classroom teachers as provided for in subsection (1) of this section.

Teachers who receive the lowest evaluation ratings are to be fired. First question, does this mean that no matter what level of performance of all teachers, someone is going to be fired? Is this like a bell curve where someone will inevitably get an “F” and be fired? There is nothing in this bill that says otherwise. no matter what your “performance” really is you will be fired if you are within a certain percentile. This of course leaves the door open for Teach for America recruits. Fortunately we have many, thousands in fact, of qualified professionals who have filed resumes with the state who would be able to step in. So then the concern is how will these teachers be evaluated.

That brings us to RCW 28A.405 which is noted above in terms of how a teacher is to be evaluated:

The four-level rating system used to evaluate the certificated classroom teacher must describe performance along a continuum that indicates the extent to which the criteria have been met or exceeded.  When student growth data, if available and relevant to the teacher and subject matter, is referenced in the evaluation process it must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based, and state-based tools. As used in this subsection, “student growth” means the change in student achievement between two points in time.

As used in this subsection, “student growth” means the change in student achievement between two points in time. In Seattle “student growth” evaluation would mean the MAP test, a test that was not designed to evaluate a teacher’s performance as stated by Brad Bernatek and Jessica DeBarros who implemented the test in Seattle as well as the designer of the test, NWEA.

This extremely destructive aspect of ed reform, not to mention the negative impact that it would have on our teachers, has now been couched in a bill with many layers. For that reason it should not pass, not unless these provisions are eliminated.

Another aspect of this bill has to do with “online learning”, using computers and software programs instead of teachers to provide some form of education to our children. This is the wording of this bill:

Sec. 105. RCW 28A.250.020 and 2009 c 542 s 3 are each amended to  read as follows:

(1) The superintendent of public instruction, in collaboration with the state board of education, shall develop and implement approval criteria and a process for approving multidistrict online providers; a process for monitoring and if necessary rescinding the approval of courses or programs offered by an online course provider; and an appeals process. The criteria and processes shall be adopted by rule by December 1, 2009.

Sec. 106. RCW 28A.250.050 and 2009 c 542 s 6 are each amended to read as follows:

(1) By August 31, 2010, all school district boards of directors shall develop policies and procedures regarding student access to online courses and online learning programs. The policies and procedures shall include but not be limited to: Student eligibility criteria; the types of online courses available to students through the school district; the methods districts will use to support student success, which may include a local advisor; when the school district will and will not pay course fees and other costs; the granting of high school credit; and a process for students and parents or guardians to formally acknowledge any course taken for which no credit is given. The policies and procedures shall take effect beginning with the 2010- school year. School districts shall submit their policies to the superintendent of public instruction by September 15, 2010. By December 1, 2010, the superintendent of public instruction shall summarize the school district policies regarding student access to online courses and submit a report to the legislature.

(2) School districts may not prevent students from taking individual approved online courses for credit. School districts must award credit for online high school courses successfully completed by a student that meet the school district’s graduation requirements and are provided by an approved multidistrict online provider.

This is another step in the process of de-educating our students, online learning. Bill Gates thinks that this is the way to go in educating our children and apparently so does Don Nielson who in the last few years decided to put his money into software and computer based learning and is now poised to make his second fortune, this time in online learning. Hey, if you can get a college degree from De Vry, why not a high school degree from the Nielson school of learning? Why hire those expensive and pesky teachers who want to go beyond the mandated curriculum when all a school has to do is buy a computer and some software? No muss, no fuss.

This bill passed the Senate and is back in the House where it is to be voted on.

If you have issues with any aspect of this bill, you should contact our representatives in Olympia and tell them so. The bill will now go back to the House for a final vote. This bill needs to go back to the drawing board, or rather the operating table, and get re-worked. And if there is not enough time this year to re-work this bill or eliminate the sections described above,  then this bill can wait until next year when it works for all of us.


Post Script: I think that I might know where the money came from to pay for Ramona’s position:

News from WSPTA

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant to Washington State PTA in the amount of $191,424.  Among other things, funds from the grant will be used

  • to enhance communications with and among our members;
  • to strengthen efforts to engage all parents, especially those from communities who have historically been underrepresented;
  • to undertake a public information campaign about the importance of every student graduating ready for college or a career.

WSPTA is very appreciative of the generosity of the Foundation in supporting our efforts to achieve our vision that every child’s potential becomes a reality.  More information about specific initiatives being funded through the grant will be forthcoming in future issues of the Leadership News.
-Bill Williams, March 26, 2011