A Bad Bill

A recent article explained how legislators in my state are looking to eliminate–in part or in whole–the use of seniority when RIFFs go into effect. While I don’t believe that every teacher of more experience is better than a new teacher, I also know that I don’t believe in pitting teachers against one another for evaluation scores. I posted the following on the article’s comment section:

Why in the world would I ever help a new teacher in my building if this becomes law? It would be against my interests to help anyone but my own students. If I help someone else, I would essentially be lowering my chances of keeping my position.

Besides this, the evaluation system is not set up to be a competitive model, and the criteria for evaluating teachers does not lend itself to a teacher by teacher comparison.

This is a poorly thought-out bill which really misses the true problem: administrators need to stop hiring poor employees, need to weed out those who shouldn’t teach in the teacher’s first three years (no due process then), and terminate those who do not perform.

Fix the disease, not the symptom.

However, some teachers do advocate for legislation like this one. I don’t think a teacher wants to hurt his/her own profession, but I do see this bill as one more way to introduce competition into a collaborative work environment.

Stories from School, an excellent education blog, posted two opinions on the attempt to side-step seniority (for and against). On the comments sections of these two posts, I posted the following comment:

This bill only tries to cure a symptom of the real disease: administrators who hire poor performers, who do not get rid of inadequate teachers before due process is required, and who do not terminate bad teachers.

This bill obviously creates competition, and–worst of all–it uses an evaluation system not designed to compare instructors to do just that.

Plus, people often forget the history that has led many districts and states to use a seniority-based system.

First, Administrators in cash-tight areas would fire more experienced teachers to hire cheaper, younger teachers to save money. This wasn’t based on effectiveness; it was based on age and money. (Many charter schools do this now.)

Second, since teaching does not offer a lucrative career, teachers of experience are rewarded for their longevity with privileges like transfer priority and security (for the sake of their families too).

Sadly, private and public sector workers are now pitted against one another. Pushing teachers into a competitive system would further harm the basic premise of education as well as the public perception of it. This bill fuels this short-sightedness.

Then I said this because the state has already commissioned groups around the state to create a new evaluation system for teachers and principals:

I think some patience is in order.

The state has commissioned districts to create a new evaluation system for the state (which will completely change the way evaluations are conducted). These bills not only undermine the value of the work being done, but also they attempt to cure the symptoms of larger educational issues and slowly introduce a competitive rather than a collaborative approach to education.

Within two years the entire state will have a brand new evaluation system for teachers and principals, and the way they must be completed and assessed will forever change the profession.

I advise everyone to start contacting and following the progress of the pilot districts. Voice your opinions and follow the work…

This type of legislation could really hurt my area, and legislation like this uses a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel to try and fix a problem.When we race to change the law instead of working to fix the real problems, we run the risk of putting into effect a bad law. And, changing laws back is virtually impossible. Plus, these bills put the power of evaluation and teacher contracts–locally bargained and adjusted based on local needs–into the laws of the inexperienced at the state level.

I very much fear this type of legislation because nuances are ignored, the experts are cut out, and another one-size-fits-all approach is enacted.

I know this is a national debate, but WA State has traditionally been more progressive and forward-thinking. The evaluation pilots around the state have a positive intent (even if I don’t think it’s perfect), but legislation like this hurt more than help the profession.

What has your state done?

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