Update: Senate Bill 521 – which now contains an amendment to create student performance-based evaluations of teachers — just passed out of the House Rules Committee seconds ago despite some efforts to stop it and now moves to the full House for debate Tuesday.
The game is afoot.
The Legislature intends to be in session on Tuesday for Day 39, and they plan to conclude the 40-day session on Thursday. That means the heated debate on SB 521 – ostensibly a bill on dual enrollment funding but now a vehicle for imposing teacher evaluations that consider student progress and meet the federal call for performance-driven pay — will occur in the last hectic hours of the session.
I have been trading e-mails with the governor’s spokesman Bert Brantley. He described what the governor’s amendment– presented to the House Education Committee yesterday by the governor’s policy director and former teacher Erin Hames – does in this way:
As Erin explained yesterday, when the merit pay bill died in the Senate, we stripped out the merit pay language and are only moving forward on the piece of the bill that deals with common statewide standard evaluations. As we have throughout this process, we tied this proposal very closely to what teachers themselves told us. The responses to the three survey questions below are driving this discussion on evaluations…
A common, statewide teacher evaluation system will help ensure that teachers across school districts have clear expectations regarding performance and are evaluated in the same way – 81 percent
Teachers should be evaluated based on both observation (planning and instruction) and the degree to which they’ve helped students grow academically – 80 percent
Teachers should have a voice in evaluations through participation in teacher peer reviews – 79 percent
In an earlier blog I wrote, I included GAE’s account of the House Education Committee hearing that I covered yesterday. PAGE has just posted its account: Here it is:
End Run on Merit Pay?
Posted April 21, 2010 3:30 pm
In an unanticipated twist of events, Senate Education Chair Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody) introduced a substitute version of his dual enrollment bill, SB 521, in the House Education Committee. In a move that surprised legislators and education advocates, today’s version of SB 521 included language added by Governor Perdue’s office which would mandate that the state board of education development a statewide teacher evaluation instrument and that at least “50% of the calculation for the evaluation instrument shall be based on student growth.”
This new language generated heated discussion among committee members who wondered why such an important concept was added to a bill with only three legislative days remaining in the 2010 session. Legislators questioned how “student growth” could be accurately ascertained without a fully functional Student Information System (SIS). Employees from the GA Department of Education explained to committee members that a larger hurdle for the implementation of the Governor’s plan is the accurate measure of “student growth.” CRCT’S and other standardized tests are not designed to measure teacher effectiveness, and such standardized tests are administered in a minority of classrooms. One legislator, Rep. Brian Thomas (D-Lilburn) predicted that the language proposed by Governor Perdue’s office today would lay the framework for easy implementation of merit pay in the near future.
Ultimately, House Education Committee members voted to amend SB 521’s language regarding teacher evaluation and deleted the mandate that student growth comprise half of a teacher’s annual evaluation. However, the committee voted to pass the bill containing language directing the State Board of Education (which is appointed by the Governor), to act in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to establish a statewide common evaluation instrument for educators.
PAGE representatives spoke before the House Education Committee and explained that the committee’s language deleting the 50% mandate improved SB 521, but that the concept of awarding pay or evaluating educators based on student performance is problematic because of the logistical challenges of fairly implementing such a program. PAGE agreed that student growth is imperative and that a study of educator evaluation is necessary; PAGE suggested that policy makers include educators, in a meaningful way, in the study of improving the evaluation process.
SB 521, which currently contains the measure mandating creation of a statewide evaluation instrument, is vulnerable in its current state and should not be passed.