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Newswire: January 8, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 1

Happy New Year! The first half of the first month of 2013 is not even finished and already the momentum — and opposition — around education reform is building. To wit:

STATE POLICY MATTERS. Kudos to StudentsFirst for their new report card, which offers some different perspective on the issues facing policymakers and parents. If Ed Reform is a College Student, this is akin to yet another professor weighing in on his competency in particular areas. But it’s the cumulative GPA that really matters in the end. CER comments today.

UNION POWER?? It’s like Randi Weingarten was suddenly Captain Renault in Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!” Her line to Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of the union being as powerful as the NRA might as well have been: “I’m shocked, shocked that anyone thinks we have as much power as the NRA!” The union was offended and tied the remark to the recent tragedies in Newton. For shame! Whether one likes it or not, the NRA is a powerful political lobby for a cause and members, and that’s what “Hizoner” was saying when the union decided to once again stand in the way of a new teacher evaluation law from being implemented. That law got the union and the Governor of NY and Bloomberg great press TWO YEARS AGO and is STILL NOT IMPLEMENTED, and is one of those laws that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attributes to Race to the Top pressure. Ah, but as we predicted, there is more to getting policy changed than getting a law passed, and like so many places, the initial oohhs and aahhs that surround the union becoming progressive turns out to be all about the talk,

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Job security at heart of 2 stumbling blocks

by Bill Ruthhart and Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune reporters
Chicago Tribune
September 11, 2012

Two issues being cited as primary stumbling blocks to a Chicago teachers contract are a recall policy for teachers and a teacher evaluation system. Both affect job security for teachers and are part of larger efforts to overhaul schools in the city and nationally.


The Chicago Teachers Union is pushing hard for a procedure to recall teachers who have been laid off because of school closings, consolidations and turnarounds. The issue is of critical importance, the union has said, because of rumors that the district plans to close as many as 100 schools in coming years.

Earlier this year, CPS and the union struck a deal over the longer school day that temporarily allowed for such a recall. In exchange for the union agreeing to an extra 30 minutes in high schools and 75 minutes in elementary schools, CPS agreed to rehire nearly 500 teachers in noncore subjects from a pool of teachers who had been laid off.

The district, however, has resisted making such a recall policy the permanent method for filling vacancies in Chicago schools.

“Teachers in this city agreed to a longer day … and what our union got in return for that was a promise there would be a recall procedure for those teachers who are going to be hired,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of CTU. “Now we see that offer is being taken away from the table, and there is no sign of respect there. That’s important for our members.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has framed the issue as one of accountability, saying he doesn’t want to place the district’s hiring control in the hands of the union through such a recall process.

“I don’t believe I should pick ’em. I don’t believe CPS should

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State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons on Chicago strike: ‘Michigan teachers are better than that’

by Dave Murray
The Grand Rapids Press
September 10, 2012

Adding teeth to Michigan’s law preventing teachers from striking won’t be a topic in state House Education Committee meetings despite the walkout by 30,000 Chicago educators, the committee’s chairwoman said.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Ada, said there is a bill before her committee that would allow the state to suspend certification for teachers who strike.

But Lyons said there are more issues before the committee that she wants to address first, including making sure veterans have more educational opportunities.

“It’s so heartbreaking to see children being hurt because adults cannot find solutions,” she said of the Chicago strike.

She said the Education Committee last year conducted hearings on the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton. She has now immediate plans to call for a vote.

Lyons said she doesn’t think Michigan teachers will follow the lead of the Chicago teachers, who walked off the job on Monday in part because of objections to a plan to use student test scores in evaluations.

“Michigan teachers are better than that,” she said.

A group of 14 Michigan school districts are piloting four programs that would look at ways to link student achievement to teacher evaluations.

Michigan teachers strikes have been illegal since 1994, though there have been three strikes — two in Detroit and one in Wayne-Westland.

Michigan’s Public Act 112 stipulates striking teachers be fined one day’s pay for each day they refuse to work. But a district must report a strike to the Michigan Employee Relations Commission, which has up to 60 days to verify such an action was taken. The commission must then conduct individual hearings for each employee before approving fines or employee dismissals.

HB 4466, which has been on the House floor for more than a year, would allow districts to consolidate the hearings and

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States Rated On Teacher Effectiveness Policies

A Bellwether Education Partners report analyzes major teacher effectiveness policy changes states have taken within the last three years.  Twenty-one states fall into that category.   The analysis focuses on legislation and regulatory provisions that link teacher evaluations to key personnel decisions.   Teacher evaluation policies are rated according to thirteen criteria that explore how often teachers are evaluated, whether principals are evaluated, whether student performance is incorporated into evaluations, whether effective teachers are compensated more, and whether policies protect students from being assigned ineffective teachers for consecutive years, to name a few.  (Please see page 3 of the full report for the complete list of criteria.)

The highest-rated state was Indiana, with Louisiana taking second and Florida taking third. Indiana and Louisiana falling into the top two comes as no surprise, since both of these states have garnered wide attention and media coverage regarding major reform packages passed within the last two years. Indiana even won the title of “Reformiest State” in the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s 2011 Reform Idol competition.

All of the states evaluated in the analysis are listed below from highest to lowest rating. Be sure to check out the full report for details on ratings and specifics on each state.

Indiana 11.75
Louisiana 10.00
Florida 9.75
Colorado 9.00
Michigan 8.00
Oklahoma 8.00
Illinois 7.50
Arizona 7.25
Nevada 7.25
Idaho 7.00
Tennessee 7.00
Rhode Island 6.75
Delaware 6.25
Connecticut 5.75
New York 5.75
Arkansas 5.50
Ohio 5.50
New Jersey 5.25
Washington 5.25
Maryland 4.25
Minnesota 3.00

Newswire: June 5, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 23

WISCONSIN RE-CALL. Labor’s credibility is on the line today as voters in Wisconsin go to the ballot box for the gubernatorial recall election. Governor Walker’s all-out assault on collective bargaining sparked this most expensive election in the state’s history. Although most political pundits are giving the edge to Walker, voter turnout is key to the outcome. But, others suggest that if labor, including teacher unions, take a loss, it may not be as unexpected as thought…

LOVE’S LOST ON LABOR. Public opinion of teacher unions, even among teachers themselves, is on the wane. That’s according to a survey released by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. Between 2009-2011, the annual poll found little movement, with about 40% of respondents neutral in their views of teacher unions. But, this latest poll finds unions losing ground. Among teachers surveyed, the drop is even more dramatic. In 2011, 58% of teachers had a positive view of unions, dropping to 43% in 2012. Teachers holding a negative view of unions nearly doubled during the same time period, from 17% to 32%, all of which could explain the NEA’s reported loss of 200,000 members by 2014. The researchers responsibly say the decrease in teacher support could be due to an opinion that unions are not doing their job in Legislatures nationwide, given the hard hits they have taken on benefits, evaluations, etc. However, they also note that dwindling teacher support could emanate from a realization that unions are putting up roadblocks to meaningful reform.

UNION LIP SERVICE. Given the results of this poll and reform trends nationwide, Washington Post columnist Jay Mathew’s characterization of union “tolerance” and support for charters and evaluations is befuddling at best. In a recent column on Obama

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Student Surveys Part of Effort to Gauge Effective Teaching

Hey, kids: How good is your teacher?

This spring, students in the Charlotte region will test-drive a survey that could eventually give them a voice in their teachers’ job evaluations.

Once results are in, state officials will consider whether and how to incorporate a student survey into teacher and principal evaluations. Read More…

Districts Start Testing Performance Pay

Randolph Central Schools will be among the first districts in the state to develop a new performance-based pay structure for its teachers.

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has partnered with two school corporations — Randolph Central and Milan Community Schools — to explore ways to deliver on the new state-mandated teacher evaluations.

“The old system dictated that teacher pay was based on experience and degrees,” Randolph Central Superintendent Gregory Hinshaw said. “Under this new legislation, that will be restricted to no more than 33 percent of an increase.”

The majority will be based on performance. The idea behind the new system is to create a way for the highest performing teachers to be rewarded, Hinshaw said. Read More…

Grading Teachers Sparks Conflict as U.S. States Compete for Federal Grants

by By Esmé E. Deprez and John Hechinger
February 23, 2012

David Wright, a high school technology teacher in Middletown,Delaware (STODE1), has never taught reading or math. Even so, the state planned to judge his job performance partly on student test scores in those subjects.

That was until last month, when state officials said they would throw out a provision in a new system linking teacher performance to student achievement that assessed educators such as Wright on schoolwide performance in subjects they don’t teach.

“Judge me, fine, just let’s make sure it’s on things that I can control,” Wright, 34, and president of the local chapter of the state union, said in a phone interview. “In the rush to get it done as quickly as possible, they lost some of the logic.”

Delaware is in the vanguard of states developing new systems to evaluate teachers, according to Sandi Jacobs, vice president of theNational Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and policy group in Washington. Delaware’s struggle may foreshadow complications that New York and other states face as they follow suit. Along with questions about fairness, states are encountering delays because of the complexity of tracking data, conflicts with teachers unions and concern from researchers that the entire effort could be misguided.

President Barack Obama’s administration has made tying teacher evaluation to student performance a centerpiece of its education agenda. Changing evaluations was a requirement for winning grants in the Education Department’s $5 billion Race to the Top program, of which Delaware was an early recipient.

Changing the Metrics

The evaluations also figure prominently in a proposed $5 billion grant program, part of the administration’s fiscal 2013 budget, designed to revamp teacher pay and tenure plans.

States are developing data systems to show how

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New York Joins Obama-Backed Movement Tying Teacher Reviews to Test Scores

by Freeman Klopott
February 17, 2011

An agreement between New York (STONY1) and its largest teachers union on evaluations makes the state part of a movement backed by President Barack Obama to hold educators responsible for student performance.

The deal announced yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, may save New York $700 million in federal funding. It’s also an example of how the push to hold teachers accountable has been taken up by both sides of the negotiating table, said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based group that supports charter schools and diminished union power.

“This is a big step in the right direction that puts New York up there in the top tier of states that have already begun down the road of codifying an evaluation system with some portion based on student test scores,” Allen said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It’s terrific that we have people from both parties finally recognizing that evaluation is an important component of creating student achievement.”

Last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that New York would have to return $700 million if it didn’t fulfill its promise to Obama’s Race to the Top program to implement teacher evaluations. The president, a Democrat, has proposed $5 billion in incentives for states and school districts to tie teacher pay to performance as part of his $69.8 billion education-budget proposal.

Cuomo Threat
The deal between the Education Department and New York State United Teachers union was reached after Cuomo threatened to insert his own evaluation plan into the budget. The agreement puts into action a 2010 law and provides a framework for districts to negotiate with local unions.

In a related deal, New York City and its local teachers union, with Cuomo’s

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