The most recent version of RAISE/PREP became public last week.  Senate sponsor Del Marsh says he is through negotiating about the details of the bill and will move it to the senate floor on Tuesday for a vote.

Does he have the votes to pass it?  That’s the $64 question at this point.  Many feel he does not.  However, these same folks know that Marsh is a very astute politician and a master at deal-making, so you knows what rabbit he may pull out of the hat to sway an undecided vote.

But one thing is certain.  This was a bad bill when it first came to light and it remains so today.  There are simply too many unanswered questions as to what it requires, who will pay for these requirements, how parts will be interpreted, etc.

For instance, versions prior to the most recent defined STUDENT GROWTH MODEL as “A statistical growth model used to isolate the effect and impact of a teacher on student learning, controlling for preexisting characteristics of a student including, but not limited to, prior achievement”

This is nothing but the very controversial VAM (Value Added Model) process used to evaluate teachers. The same one the American Statistical Association and the American Education Research Association has great reservations about.

In the new bill, STUDENT GROWTH is defined as “The change in achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time as approved by the State Board of Education.”

So VAM is gone.  Or is it really?

On page 17, line 6-17 we find that this version requires the State Department of Education to “Develop, implement, and publicly disseminate a method for measuring student achievement and student growth for purposes of teacher evaluations in order to standardize student academic measures and ensure teachers are evaluated according to the impact they have on student achievement and student growth in the classroom or school, for teachers and teachers serving as principal or assistant principals.  The department shall work with the Alabama Longitudinal Data System Center created by an act of the Legislature during the 2016 Regular Session.  Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to usurp or diminish the authority of the department in administering and implementing this act.”

For one, at this writing legislation creating the Longitudinal Data Center has NOT been passed this session.  Secondly, I sent the above info to 10 educators I highly trust and asked what it means.  Most said that it is simply VAM in a new set of clothes.

And let us not forget that the same folks pushing PREP are the same folks who gave us the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013.  The bill that said up front that it was all about helping students in “failing schools.”  And it was the same cast of characters who came back in 2015 to amend the Alabama Accountability Act so that it is now all about “school choice” instead of helping “failing schools.”

And we are now supposed to believe them?

On page 28 we find the bill creating the Alabama Teacher Recruitment Fund and putting $5 million in it to come from the Education Trust Fund.  The intent is to recruit teachers who serve primarily high-poverty schools and teach subjects that are hard to staff.

So who can argue with this?

But as always, the devil is in the details and they are lacking.  The bill says a qualifying school is any one where 80 percent or more of students receive free-reduced lunches.  Alabama had 364 such schools in 2014 according to info from the state department of education.  They had 130,000 students which means they had about 6,500 teachers.  If all of them get a $1,000 bonus, that’s $6.5 million, which is more than has been set aside to give bonuses.

So the money is gone before all the other categories of teachers eligible for bonuses are even considered.  And no where can I find in the language of this section WHO will decide which teachers get a bonus.

As I’ve said before, we ain’t got enough lipstick in Alabama to make this pig look pretty.  And trust me, having grown up on a farm I know what pigs look like.