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Gov. Brownback's plan to post teachers' rankings causes outcry; GOP senator describes plan as 'toxic'
These political decisions to tie teacher ratings to student test scores--and make them public-- are so common that by now they hardly register. When will some teacher group put up a real fight?
By Scott Rothschild
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback has formally introduced his 138-page school finance overhaul, and it includes a provision that Brownback officials had not discussed before publicly: a proposal to evaluate teachers, partly based on student achievement, and post their rankings on the Internet.
That plan received a rough welcome on Thursday from several Republican and Democratic legislators and the Kansas National Education Association.
State Sen. Jean Kurtis Schodorf, R-Wichita, and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, described the evaluation proposal as "pretty toxic."
She noted the Kansas Department of Education was already working on a new model aimed at providing uniformity across the state in evaluating school personnel. That program is being tried in several school districts.
Brownback’s plan would require school districts to adopt teacher evaluations that would be based 50 percent on student performance on state assessments, 40 percent on input from supervisors, peers, parents and students, and 10 percent on the employees’ contribution to the profession.
Teachers would be graded as either highly effective, effective, progressing or ineffective. And the evaluations would be posted on a website.
Brownback has proposed providing $5,000 bonuses to employees rated as highly effective. For those deemed ineffective, school districts would be encouraged to provide professional development. And districts could terminate anyone scoring ineffective for two straight years. Students could not be taught by teachers ranked as ineffective for two consecutive years.
“Including input from parents and families in the evaluation process will encourage more meaningful engagement between educators and students’ families,” said Jon Hummell, director of operations for Brownback.
“It is also important for parents to have confidence their child is receiving a quality education. Therefore, this legislation would require that each educator’s rating be posted on a website designated by the school district that is accessible to the parents of the students enrolled in the district,” he said.
But placing teacher evaluations on a website will only hinder efforts by teachers to improve and the work of administrators who are trying to make personnel decisions, said Mark Desetti, a lobbyist with the Kansas National Education Association.
He added that teachers already feel under attack because of pay issues, cuts in school funding, proposed changes to their pensions and increased health insurance costs.
“This is strictly punitive and harmful,” Desetti said of Brownback’s plan.
The evaluation proposal is included in Brownback’s legislation to overhaul the school finance system. Brownback wants to remove state limits on local funding of schools and eliminate the current system of using “weights” that divvies up extra funding for special needs of students.
Schodorf said she would probably divide Brownback’s bill into four measures. She said the best way to get things passed is to keep legislation as simple as possible. Brownback’s education bill, she said, “Probably sets the record for moving parts.”
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