Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What Does California Educator Magazine Say About The Change In Teacher Evaluation Law?

It says a lot, but I'm reminded of the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song: "people talking without speaking...." Can CTA ever be clear and honest about what's going on?

Last month the governor signed a law that allows what was once forbidden, the tying of student standardized test scores to teacher evaluations. CTA, which long said it would plant its standard on that hill and fight to the death, seemingly ran away from the fight without firing a shot. You might think I'm exaggerating, but let's see the different statements California Educator publishes about this situation:

The first is from Ole Si Se Puede's column:
The final RTTT (Race to the Top) regulations were just released. We certainly still have concerns and are reviewing all the details, but there were some improvements. The final guidelines include multiple measures of gauging student growth and, in turn, teacher effectiveness. They also call for teacher involvement in designing evaluation systems and provide a fourth option of assistance for helping lower-performing schools.

No reference at all to the change in ed code. So we turn to page 13 and read about the bill that effected the change:

Is it now legal to use student assessments as a component of teacher evaluations?
State law already requires the use of student assessment results in the evaluation of teachers, including the use of criterion-referenced tests as determined by local teachers and administrators. Many districts include student assessments as one component of evaluations and are using data to improve instruction, teacher effectiveness and student learning. Those evaluation processes must still be negotiated.

Should I be alarmed about the passage of SB 19?
Deletion of the “state firewall” language regarding student and teacher data systems does not impact state collective bargaining law or local bargaining agreements. The state does not evaluate teachers and this bill doesn’t create a statewide evaluation system.

This is not entirely accurate. Let's see what I wrote in October, quoting the major Sacramento newspaper (the embedded link now resides in the "paid archives"):

Sunday afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that took away the biggest obstacle to the state winning a share of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top funds for education.

Senate Bill 19, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, eliminates a statewide ban against tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

CTA isn't being entirely honest. Or are they? Because on page 32 they say something else entirely:

The measure, SB 19, by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Santa Clara), deletes a sentence in the state's Education Code that forbids using a state education database for purposes of teacher evaluation or pay.

Which sentence was deleted, do you think? CTA doesn't say! For grins, let's see what California Ed Code Section 44662 has to say:

44662. (a) The governing board of each school district shall establish standards of expected pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study.
(b) The governing board of each school district shall evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to:
(1) The progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments.

(2) The instructional techniques and strategies used by the employee.
(3) The employee's adherence to curricular objectives.
(4) The establishment and maintenance of a suitable learning environment, within the scope of the employee's responsibilities.
(c) The governing board of each school district shall establish and define job responsibilities for certificated noninstructional personnel, including, but not limited to, supervisory and administrative personnel, whose responsibilities cannot be evaluated appropriately under the provisions of subdivision (b) and shall evaluate and assess the performance of those noninstructional certificated employees as it reasonably relates to the fulfillment of those responsibilities.
(d) Results of an employee's participation in the Peer Assistance and Review Program for Teachers established by Article 4.5 (commencing with Section 44500) shall be made available as part of the evaluation conducted pursuant to this section.
(e) The evaluation and assessment of certificated employee performance pursuant to this section shall not include the use of publishers' norms established by standardized tests.
(f) Nothing in this section shall be construed as in any way limiting the authority of school district governing boards to develop and adopt additional evaluation and assessment guidelines or criteria. (boldface mine--Darren)

I admit to having some difficulty understanding how the two boldfaced sections above aren't contradictory. Still, I ask--which sentence has been removed? I've quoted the sections that deal with teacher evaluation.

Turns out SB 19 relates to something else entirely--databases.

(1) Existing law establishes the California Education Information System, which consists of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) and the California Longitudinal Teacher Integrated Data Education System (CALTIDES). Existing law requires that data elements and codes included in the California Education Information System
be maintained in compliance with specified provisions of law...
(2) Existing law prohibits data in CALTIDES from being used either solely or in conjunction with data from CALPADS for purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, or personnel evaluation of an individual teacher or groups of teachers, or any other employment decisions related to individual teachers.
This bill would delete this prohibition.

It might seem that this new law affects Section 44662, but that section deals with district-level teacher evaluations. So how does this new law affect teachers? CTA says it, in effect, doesn't:

CTA legal experts point out that SB 19's deletion of an Education Code sentence regarding the use of CALTIDES data in teacher evaluations "has no direct impact on any evaluation provisions in collective bargaining agreements. It does not supersede, nullify or require any changes to existing language that has been collectively bargained. It does not change existing Education Code provisions regarding evaluation, nor does it mandate making a change in evaluation procedures."

So what, exactly, does this new law do? What did it change? What does it allow now that wasn't allowed before? How will this state data make its way to my district and be used in my evaluation?

The bottom line is that after all this reading, researching, and writing, I know very little more about the impact of this new law than I did when I began. Clearly this law is a big deal, and it makes a lot of federal money available to California. Instead of essentially saying that there's nothing to see here, please move along, perhaps the CTA could explain, in laymen's terms, what its impact is.

But no, that would be too much to ask. Because if you educate the teachers, they might not always agree with you. Better to keep them in the dark and dependent on your paternalistic benevolence. We know best, trust us--right, CTA?

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