Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LA Educational Bill

Ok.  I'm from Louisiana and therefore know several people in the state who are teachers.  I'm not 100% certain of everything going on right now, and this is a strand that is definitely open to conversation--not attack, but open discussion.

Here are my thoughts based upon my understanding of what is going on:

1.  Last year when massive amounts of educational staff cuts were being made across the nation, I was in my third year of teaching at this school.  That left me in my probationary term, and therefore I was automatically placed on the chopping block as possible lay offs.  It didn't matter that I scored higher on my evaluations, participated in and directed more on-campus activities, and had higher standards set for my own students than other teachers on campus--simply because they had been teaching there longer than I, and therefore received tenure.  They were basically untouchable until all of the probationary contracts were terminated.  That disgusted me.  Having been in that situation, I completely agree and support the new policy laid on in Governor Jindal's plan to have terminations and staff cuts based on performance rather than seniority.

2.  As I read through the bill, I kept coming across the word "effective" teacher.  My question and concern is the criteria with which they use to determine a teacher effective.  I hate what standardized testing has done to the classroom.  It may be a decent way to measure students across the board; but I believe it should be more diagnostic instead of central in the world of education.  Rather than being used as a measuring tool, those tests have become the driving force of the classroom--and it is ruining the education process.  However, observations and grades are too subjective to use as a means of sole evaluation also.  So again, what determines the effectiveness of a teacher?  I do believe student performance is the main and best means.  I mean, your job as a teacher is to improve the abilities of your students.  My husband as an engineer is evaluated based upon the performance of his machines.  Architects are evaluated on the performance of their buildings.  As teachers, we're responsible for our students.  Now...don't get me wrong.  I know firsthand the obstacles that task brings--the lack of discipline, student accountability, and parent involvement are the biggies but not the onlies.  Also, the student makeup of each teacher is different--Special Education classes and Inclusion classes must be curved in, as well as teachers with Gifted and Advanced student bodies.  Still, a measure of improvement or steady excellence in expected of a good teacher.  So I agree that teachers should be evaluated on effectiveness.  My struggle is what the standards for them to meet and the methods of evaluation should be.

3.  The bill clearly states that pay will not be decreased because of evaluation decline.  The raise will simply not be given.  This actually makes sense to me too.  My husband works for ExxonMobil, and not only are they evaluated on performance and their raises dependent on those evaluations, but they are ranked against each other.  It makes for dedicated employees who are constantly trying to improve.  Why should you get a raise just for working another year if you're not meeting the set criteria and expectations?

4.  I don't understand the idea for tax refunds for students in charter and/or private schools completely (definitely not near enough to try to explain it...), but in the way it was explained to me, the idea actually made sense.  Whether it is possible or effective, I'm not sure.

So my sincere question:  what are the issues that you as teachers in Louisiana are upset about?

For those of you who don't know me, I taught for three years.  I'm not saying this as an outsider who doesn't understand education.  If you are under the impression that I am pleased with the educational system in our country, please refer back to this post and rest assured I am certainly not.  I sincerely want to know what your concerns are.  This issue sprung up on me out of nowhere and I haven't been able to see many details about what the actual teachers are specifically unhappy with.

Again, this is not a chance for attacks, but rather open discussion.


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