Aug 9, 2011

States Enacting Comprehensive Ed Reform [Or, Don't Concentrate On Efficacy, Concentrate On Numbers!]


Hari Sevugan is Vice President of Communications for StudentsFirst. Previously, Hari was the National Press Secretary for the Democratic Party. He also served as Senior Spokesman for the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign. Before entering politics, Hari was a teacher in Washington Heights, New York. He is a Chicago native and graduate of Northwestern University Law School and the University of Illinois.
Congress has been slow to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law so that it works better for educators, students and parents. But state legislatures are stepping in to enact important education reforms across the country.
So far the trend hasn't received much national attention, but this US News article spotlights the reforms taking hold.
The new laws enacted in several states call for improving teacher evaluations and ridding our schools of last-in, first-out (LIFO) seniority rules, which dictate that time served should trump job performance when budget cuts require teacher layoffs.
Layoffs are terrible, but doing them through LIFO is even worse. No in-school factor is as critical to student achievement as the work of a teacher in the classroom. We have to retain our best educators if we truly want to improve our schools. With your energy we've helped change the laws in a number of states so we make decisions based on performance on the job rather than solely years in the job.
What's striking is the sweep of the change you have helped bring about. Often change is greeted with protests by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. But as we work across the country, having conversations with our neighbors over the backyard fence and with our family across the kitchen table, or with our fellow parishioners across a church pew and fellow parents at the PTA snack table, we are seeing a change in our expectations. As the US News piece points out:
"With a sudden and striking momentum that nearly defies explanation, states are redefining their expectations for teachers. Ohio, Illinois, Nevada, Utah, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Arkansas, and Michigan are on that list. Last year Colorado weighed in with dramatic reforms, and parallel reforms are expected soon in New Jersey and Texas. D.C. no longer stands alone. The reforms vary by state, but the common themes are clear. Teachers are expected to prove they are effective before being awarded the job protections of tenure. They are expected to undergo serious job evaluations that include both classroom observations and student test scores. When kicked out of one school for being ineffective, they don't necessarily have a guaranteed job in another school. And in a few cases, they are no longer rewarded financially for mere longevity and university degrees that have no connection to improving teaching skills."
Have no doubt, there will still be many who oppose change - they are too vested in maintaining the status quo not to be - and it will not be easy, but change is coming. As the breadth of the reform efforts we've already been engaged in show, we've tapped into something real, undeniable, and, with your continued help, unstoppable.

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