Springfield: Reform --Or Reform "Lite"?
Longtime readers know that there's nothing that makes me more suspicious than everyone claiming to get along and that victory has been achieved. And, well, there's been an awful lot of self-congratulation and adulatory press coverage surrounding the state senate's 59-0 approval of a reform package last week. Everyone worked so long and negotiated so hard, we're being told. It's "model" reform! But did reformers get as much as it seemed? Did teachers and others really give away so much without a peep? Everyone seems to want to do a victory lap but let's take a look at some of the questions and concerns that should be raised. The word sneaking out from Springfield is that some healthy skepticism should be in the mix. What do you "get" when you get a 59-0 vote? My quick take is below. What's yours?
A quick look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation: The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off. There's no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement. There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan. Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn't respond within 45 days. The bill allows nontenured and unevaluated teachers to be fired first in a layoff situation (sounds like LIFO to me). The bill allows the use of several seniority proxies (certification, qualifications, relevant experience) while ostensibly limiting the use of seniority.
It'd be interesting to see a side by side comparing the IL bill to the FL and CO laws, and to know if Advance and Stand consult with counterparts in these states when developing or negotiating the plan. If you've seen one or are willing to do one, let us know!
Is this model legislation developed through a model process, as is being claimed, or is it reform "lite," setting the bar extremely low and letting everyone declare victory without doing any of the really hard work?