Sound the trumpets. Fire the cannon. Call in the dogs. Get the women and children off the street.
After retreating to the bowels of the Statehouse to confer with his Ouija board and slosh more lipstick on the pig infamously now known as the RAISE Act, Senate President Del Marsh has now returned with another 31 pages of hocus pocus masquerading as education policy.
Except this time he dipped again into his bag of tricks and acronyms and instead of the Rewarding Advancement in Instruction and Student Excellence (RAISE) we are now introduced to the Preparing and Rewarding Educational Professionals (PREP) Act of 2016.
As soon as this version hit the internet this morning, my phone began ringing as educators across the state saw the same thing I did–another attempt to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. There were lots of questions. This is another unfunded mandate, how will we pay for it at the local level? This has LITIGATION all over it.
Why does it call for a “third party vendor” to implement part of the teacher evaluations? Which lobbyist will win this prize? Teachers who go to high poverty schools will be given a bonus–and then judged by student performance. I’m not real sure what an oxymoron is, but this could be one.
PREP also calls for a teacher mentoring program. A noble idea. But unfortunately one that has been tried before with little success, primarily because mentor-quality teachers simply do not have time to tend to their own class, plus spend adequate time mentoring someone else.
And right there on page 19, line 26 is an insertion that speaks volumes. This section says, “On or before the beginning of each school year, the governing board shall distribute to each employee a summary of the Educators Liability Trust Fund, as provided in section 16-22-3.1, Code of Alabama 1975, and a summary of Section 36-1-12, Code of Alabama 1975, relating to teacher immunity.”
So what does this have to do with students or teacher evaluations or anything PREP purports to be about?
It is only inserted as a needless slap at the Alabama Education Association so that teachers will know they have an alternative to AEA’s liability insurance program. The supermajority’s disdain and dislike of AEA just had to be snuck in. One of those “the devil made me do it” moments.
Memo to supermajority. Paul Hubbert died in October, 2014. He left AEA in 2011. Get over it. AEA is a shell of what it once was. When do we start being driven by the desire to help children going to school, not because of some long-festering animosity about an organization?
And as with RAISE, PREP still clings to using the very controversial Value Added Model (VAM) evaluation system for teachers. The same type program so many states have had to defend in court.
The same effort that the American Educational Research Association addressed with a statement in 2015 that stated: “(This statement) cautions against VAM being used to have a high-stakes, dispositive weight in evaluations. There is considerable disagreement among education policy makers and decision makers about whether the state of knowledge about VAM, alone or in combination with other indicators, is sufficiently well developed to be incorporated into accountability systems.”
In 2014, the American Statistical Association issued a VAM statement saying: “VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward student outcomes. VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects–positive or negative–attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”
Finally, PREP introduces the Legislative Teacher Advisement Committee that will consist of nine teachers and two principals. The irony of this is overwhelming. After months and months of working on this legislation with no input from Alabama educators, the authors now suggest that there might actually be merit to calling on professional, home-grown educators for their opinion.
As Grandpa used to say, “Believe they are a dime short and a dollar late.”
PREP is no better than RAISE. Just a bit watered down version.
So for the sake of continuing down the acronym trail, let’s just call this legislation CRAP (Continued Regurgitation of an Awful Process).