I’ve been curious to see how Utah state Senator Aaron Osmond would revamp his education reform bill, after he yanked an earlier bill that would have significantly changed Utah’s teacher tenure – oops, “reasonable expectation of continued employment” – laws.
The answer, according to a story in today’s Deseret News, is that “the freshman senator’s bill . . . looks instead to focus on administrators.”
“When an organization is struggling,” Osmond said, ‘you don’t rifle-shot out the employees first. You look at what the leadership is doing.’”
The new bill would base a (to my mind not sufficiently high) 15% of administrator salaries on a variety of factors: “student achievement at the administrator’s respective school, feedback from teachers, parents and supervisors, and how thoroughly the administrator conducts teacher evaluations for every licensed professional on his or her staff.”
The Senator’s proposal may well be a good place to start, especially since the UEA has announced its support. Reform has a much better shot at success if teachers are on board, indeed if teachers help design and implement evaluations. And there’s a fair amount of evidence that leadership from principals is key to turning schools around. (For a good summary of the literature, see http://www.readingrockets.org/article/25981/.)
But I’d note that the study cited above begins: “Leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success.” If principals want to earn their bonuses, they’re still going to have to tackle the contentious issue of measuring teacher effectiveness . . . and the even more contentious issue of firing ineffective teachers.
The new bill apparently addresses this issue, at least in part. According to the Deseret News report, teachers would be evaluated on a scale of one to four, and teachers receiving the lowest rating would not be eligible for yearly experience-based raises commonly known as steps and lanes.” The bill would also limit “the remediation time frame for teachers who perform poorly on evaluations. Schools would have a total 120 days to notify teachers of their poor evaluation, remediate them and terminate them if necessary. Teachers who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation more than once in a three-year period could be fired.”
I hope that the UEA’s support for this bill means they’re on board with this rating system, and with this stepped-up timetable. Several teachers have commented on my blog that administrator inaction, not teacher or teacher union resistance, constitutes the real obstacle to firing ineffective teachers. Giving administrators more incentive to address this issue may give them a needed nudge.
Still, studies of teacher evaluation have repeatedly shown that almost all teachers receive only cursory evaluations – and very high ratings. (See http://widgeteffect.org/downloads/TheWidgetEffect.pdf, probably the most often-cited study of this phenomenon.) It strikes me that the proposed new law will make a difference only if administrators are genuinely willing to identify poor performers and take decisive action. I wonder if the bill’s incentives are really significant enough to overcome resistance, or for that matter inertia.
Here’s the link to the Deseret News article: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865550053/Senate-bill-evaluate-administrators-to-improve-schools.html?s_cid=Email-1