All day long March 23 was kinda sorta like the due date for your first child. Will it really be today? Do we at long last get to see if it is a boy or girl? What color will the infant’s eyes be?
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh had hinted that the infamous RAISE/PREP bill might come up for a vote today. He was trying to count votes, which is sometimes like catching a handful of smoke. Early in the day he was telling some senators that the State Department of Education has agreed to a newer version of the bill.
Well, not exactly They had agreed to certain changes in the bill–but certainly not all. A phone call was placed to State Superintendent Tommy Bice, who was in Mobile, to set the record straight. He did this and followed up with an email to Senator March at 11:00 a.m that stated in part, While progress has been made, we continue to oppose PREP in its current form and the latest substitution.
At one point a Birmingham senator contacted Jennifer Brown, state Teacher of the Year and an active participant in the legislative battle, to see if she was on board with the latest draft. She politely told him that she had not seen a copy of the bill and was not in favor of something she had not seen.
I got a copy in early afternoon and immediately turned to the definition of STUDENT GROWTH MODEL on page 8, which said: “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 limted to, prior achievement.”
This was the exact language used in the last version, language that defines the Value Added Model (VAM) process of evaluating teachers based on student test scores that has proven to be unreliable in many states. Teachers and researchers have spoken out repeatedly against using VAM.
However, as Dr. Brittany Larkin of Auburn University pointed out, two pages later language was tweaked to read: “Districts may choose to also include other examinations or measures approved by the department that measures student growth, including examinations developed at the local level, standardized benchmark assessment administered at the local level, or student learning objectives, if applicable.”
Brittany then made a couple of very important points. “Why do we need legislation to tell us to do what the state department of education is already doing?”
And, “This bill serves no point. It will only make changing the evaluation process that much more difficult and painful because if passed it’would take a legislative act to make any changes to a process that should be responsive to need.
In other words, why is Senator Marsh trying to legislate education process? To me this is like passing a bill that says a college football coach should check with the legislature as to whether he should try a field goal or punt the ball.
Stop a minute and think about all the time, energy and resources that have now been spent by the education community in trying to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. And why? Simply because some lawmakers refuse to consult with Alabama educators before they jump on board an idea being pushed by someone from outside the state.
At the end of the day when the gavel closed the final session before the legislature goes on Spring break, RAISE/PREP never made it to the delivery room.
So we are left to dangle some more and to continue to oppose a bill that should be killed on principle alone. And to wonder how in the world is any of this helping our children going to public schools.