Friday, May 20, 2011

FWCS to participate in designing teacher evaluation process

Nikki Kelly of the JG reported today that FWCS will be one of six Indiana districts working with the IDE to develop a merit based teacher evaluation system. The new system will consider improvement in standardized test scores as part of the evaluation, although how much weight they will get is not clear. Also unclear is what will be used for those teaching subjects which are not covered by standardized test.

In spite of the difficulty and their past resistance to the reforms, participation is a good move for FWCS. Being part of the process, they can influence the product with the participation of teachers and administrators and get better buy in from both. And by working with the IDE they'll get points for cooperation, which will help in keeping SSHS and NSHS from being converted to charters if their scores don't improve this year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

All four major reforms now law

Now that the legislature has passed all of the reform bills for government schools, we can speculate on what their effect will be. These reforms will not "kill public education " as we know it, especially with respect to vouchers and charter schools. The pressure will be mostly on urban districts. Government schools have not been motivated to change by competition as yet, preferring just to circle the wagons and stay the course. Actually the best tool for rapid change would be the strict enforcement of PL 221. But that depends on consistency in the testing program and the willingness of the IDE to step in, both of which are doubtful.

Vouchers - will pay up to $4700 for a student to attend a private school, depending on family income. That would be enough to pay tuition in parochial elementary and middle schools. The catch is that they have to attend a government school for at least a year and kindergarten doesn't count. That makes things awkward. But then what? The choice of private high schools is more limited, so are they then going to go end up having to go to a goverment high school?

Charters - it's hard to start a school, so I don't anticipate a slew of charter start ups. High schools are especially difficult and expensive. And they won't be able to control enrollment. If they end up admitting too many unprepared government school kids, a charter high school is going to have the same problems as a govenment high school. Having $1 access to a closed government school building will help but there will still be initial building outlays for revisions and repairs.

Teacher evaluations - have the potential to improve teacher quality, although slowly, if it's done right. Each district will have to set policies and salary administration factoring in test score data for at least 50% of the evaluation. An annual system based on competence and data instead of seniority can be a big step forward depending on how it's set up.

Collective bargaining - will now be limited to pay and benefits. Contracts last no longer than the state budget cycle, so they are forced to renegotiate every two years. Districts now have the opportunity to redefine their work rules and regain the flexibility they lost under collective bargaining agreements. Reasonable provisions of current contract can be kept so those will probably be used as a starting point. Again the benefits of this change will depend on how districts structure their new policies.

All in all teachers will be working under systems similar to those most professionals see in the private sector. Less job security with opportunity for higher pay. It will take years to see how this all pans out, so don't expect any dramatic change.