Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time to Hit the Reset Button on Tiered Licensure

Many Boise School District staff members and administrators attended the Tiered Licensure hearing at Mountain View High School in Meridian on October 21, joining hundreds of others from around the Treasure Valley. The hearing ran for three hours, and speakers provided eloquent, well-stated arguments opposing the State Board of Education’s proposed rule. Those statements, when considered alongside testimony provided in Pocatello and Lewiston, and the volumes of written commentary submitted to the Board, should convince members to scrap the proposed rule and start over.

The President of the State Board of Education asserted recently in the Idaho Education News that many of the comments “do not accurately reflect the actual provisions of the tiered certification and career ladder proposals”. However, the statements we heard reflected general concern that the effect of implementation of the current licensure proposal will be to:

  • further diminish the capacity of Idaho school districts to recruit and retain quality teachers;
  • unwisely use teacher evaluation ratings to strip teachers of their licenses;
  • use discredited methodologies surrounding standardized test growth as part of teacher evaluation;
  • greatly diminish the value of professional development as a necessary part of a teacher’s career
  • drive a wedge between principals and teachers and significantly reduce teamwork on behalf of kids.

Though a few who testified may not have understood that only new teachers to the profession beginning in 2015-16 can lose their licenses, or that the proposal relates to the funding model at the state level and not to individual teacher salaries, the points made in testimony remain valid.

In 2011, the legislature passed the Students Come First laws in the face of overwhelming testimony against the laws. If anything, the tenor of the comments at the hearings was even more unified – teachers, administrators, and parents all made similar pointed, accurate remarks. American Falls Superintendent Ron Bollinger said in the Idaho State Journal, "We've managed to destroy the culture and dignity of being a teacher."

Several alternate ideas have emerged over the last few weeks, including a proposal  that the Boise District developed in anticipation of the hearing. We encourage the State Board to consider the elements of each of the proposals, and to include teachers and administrators in the development of a plan that fulfills these goals:

  • identify the best pre-service teachers in Idaho’s colleges;
  • provide a mechanism for novice teachers to progress toward the next stage in their careers;
  • encourage teachers to remain in the classroom and become involved in leadership activities rather than pursue other career paths.

The State Board’s proposed rule represents an attempt to impose additional accountability into the principal-teacher evaluation relationship, when such accountability is best kept at the school and district level, so that teamwork is emphasized. We encourage the State Board of Education to rethink the proposed Teacher Licensure rule.

Additional Note: The effort to institute systems in which standardized test scores factor in teacher evaluations is expanding to different parts of the country. Peter Greene, a Pennsylvania English teacher, who writes the blog Curmudgucation, recently opined about the effort to do so in Massachusetts. A ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution in Missouri to “require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system was featured recently in Diane Ravitch’sblog. Tennessee’s education commissioner pitched an effort that ultimately failed in the legislature.  All this despite PDK/Gallup Poll ratings indicating that most parents oppose tying teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, and research indicating that standardized test results have little relationship to quality teaching.