By May 4, 2016 Uncategorized 1 Comment

In just about every horror movie, there’s a climactic moment when somebody enters an attic, a basement, or some other dark segment of their home or another creepy place like a crypt or cemetery only to have the music turn ominous and something scary suddenly lurch out at them.

I’m sure you’ve also noticed people in horror movies always seem to take their sweet time shooting or killing whatever evil person or entity is chasing or tormenting them.

This usually ends badly for the person holding the gun or stake or whatever weapon is needed because it provides extra time for the villain or evil thing to get away or turn the tables in a bad way for the protagonist.

So while we all sit on the edge of our seats, heart pumping, adrenaline running, in anticipation for someone to die, we scream this classic phrase, or some variation.

“Shoot/KILL Him/Her/IT!!”

It’s like when I glance at this image from the 1968 movie: “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,” and my brain starts yelling: “HURRY UP! Drive the DAMN stake already!!”

Allow me to now travel the morbid segue from the imaginary monster pictured to the left to the very real entity about to sink its teeth into Oklahoma’s teachers: the VAMpire.

As you know, the term “VAM” in an educational context refers to the Value-Added Model, a system which uses the results of students on certain state assessments to provide a numerical rating for the teacher and school leader assigned to that particular group of students.

Over the past few years, VAMs have been adopted in numerous states in response to federal requirements in NCLB and RttT which tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. In most cases, this national experiment has not gone well.

In fact, a few smart people like Dr. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State University have created entire websites to illuminate the mountains of faulty research and theoretical fallacies associated with using value-added models in teacher evaluation.

Using student test scores to determine measures of performance might provide us with some reassurance we are not throwing good money after bad, but it’s a false reassurance. And in the meantime, we’re making teachers miserable when maintaining educator morale is already a significant challenge in our state.

Fortunately, the federal requirement for using student test scores to sort and rank teachers went away with the passage the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last December.

Consequently, our state now has the federal government’s consent to swing the hammer and drive the stake into the heart of Oklahoma’s VAMpire before it wreaks havoc on our schools.

“HURRY UP! Drive the DAMN stake already!!”

In this metaphor, the stake is represented by House Bill 2957. Our legislature simply needs to muster the courage to swing the mallet.

HB2957 rewrites significant portions of the original TLE legislation, HB2033, which was passed in 2010, and amended by Senate Bill 706 last year.

It’s complicated, but the major change in HB 2957 is the elimination of QUANTITATIVE measures as a required component of teacher and leader evaluations.

As I wrote last month in “Time for Quantitative Measures to Die,” House Bill 2957 represents a positive step forward in trying to get teacher and leader evaluation right in Oklahoma.

Here is what I like in the current legislation (please take a few minutes to read it yourself):

  • It would return flexibility to local school districts concerning their teacher and administrator evaluations.
  • It would keep qualitative measures in place while giving districts flexibility to continue quantitative measures if they choose at their own expense.
  • It would require an annual individualized program of professional development for every teacher and school leader. Research proves that professional development is the most effective strategy school systems have to strengthen educators’ performance levels and raise student achievement.
  • This shift returns the focus to inputs of quality teaching rather than just outputs.
  • Professional development also encourages systemic improvement across the entire state instead of the current focus on those who only score below effective.
  • By using an individualized professional development goal, we can tailor goals towards educators’ varying levels of motivation, interest, knowledge, and skill. We could also address the different contexts and very real challenges teachers face in their schools and classrooms instead of relying on a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • HB2957 makes clear that the purpose of professional development is to increase learning of both educators and their students. With giving the needed freedom back to the school districts to design their evaluations and corresponding professional development for teachers and administrators, local school district boards will hold educators accountable.
  • This bill could save the OSDE $2.5 million from its FY2017 budget request to support the implementation of quantitative measures. It would also save districts tens of thousands in additional training costs and mandates associated with TLE. $600K of this amount is to support the Roster Verification Process (Battelle For Kids) which could be eliminated immediately upon passage of this bill.

HB2957 passed from the House on a 94-0 vote on March 8, 2016. The Oklahoma Senate brought the legislation to the floor and approved the bill 46-0 on April 20th. Because the Senate made a few minor changes to the House version, the legislation was engrossed and sent back to the House to consider and vote on the amendments.

Since the bill passed both houses without a single “no” vote, it would seem like it should be smooth sailing from this point. But, as we know, nothing is automatic with our state legislature.

And we have almost run out of time.

Fortunately, HB2957 is on the House agenda for tomorrow, May 6th, which just so happens to be the House deadline for rejecting Senate Amendments (SAs) to House measures and requesting conference.

Yet, the bottom line is if no action happens on the legislation tomorrow, it will likely be dead for this session.

And, if HB2957 DOES NOT pass, quantitative measures will go into effect in Oklahoma next year. This has serious implications for Oklahoma’s teachers and school leaders.

For teachers of tested subjects, this would mean that a portion of their evaluation would be based on student test results using the previously discussed value-added models (VAMs). For everyone else, the teacher or leader’s evaluation would have to include at least one of the following measures approved by the State Board of Education:

  • District-approved benchmark assessments
  • State-approved diagnostic assessments
  • Student surveys
  • Teacher portfolios

No one doubts that teachers, and employees of any kind, need to be evaluated and can indeed benefit from an evaluation system that provides supports for getting better. And the public has a right to know whether its tax dollars are being spent on teachers who do their jobs and schools that provide a quality education.

Every superintendent or school leader should be able to say, with confidence: “Everyone who teaches here is good. Here’s how we know: We have a system.”

Given that, local school boards and leaders are in the best position to determine what system works best for them. HB2957 goes a long way in restoring that local control and autonomy.

Oklahoma has dumped six years of time and significant resources into this failed experiment called TLE.

This is another one of those times when our legislators need to hear from educators in large and convincing numbers.

Please take a few minutes to share this information, send an email, or make a phone call to your representative tonight or tomorrow morning. Ask them to vote YES for HB2957. Let them know the mandatory use of quantitative measures for teacher evaluation should die in Oklahoma.

It’s time to pound the VAM stake!

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