When the money runs out

Eventually, even billionaires bail, and when their money is gone problems remain. In some cases, big problems.

Two years into work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness, city school officials have determined that the financial outlook has changed so much that the effort will be unsustainable without a major retooling.

By revamping teacher salaries -- paying for test results instead of degrees or years of service -- Memphis City Schools leaders hope to find a big chunk of the $34 million a year it will take to keep going when the Gates money stops in 2015.

The district is now spending another $250,000 on consultants to figure the mess out. Cleaning up that mess left behind by Bill Gates "philanthropy" might be a whole host of lost jobs and school closings.

One possibility, he says, is reducing the nonteaching staff -- secretaries, cafeteria workers, maintenance staff -- who work in every school in the city.

Another is closing schools and funneling the savings back to the Gates' work.

The whole idea was to institute test score based pay for teachers, but the effort turned out to be far more expensive and unsustainable that systems where pay is collectively bargained. If that doesn't strike you are irresponsible enough, it does actually get worse

"We just found out this week that the 400 new teachers in the district will have to use schoolwide data for their TVAAS score.

"Thirty-five percent of their score will be schoolwide data from a time when they were not even part of the district."

Indeed. Imagine having your performance nad pay being evaluated using scores that aren't even your own. Welcome to the wonderful world of Corporate education reform.

Don't mess with Matt Damon

This speech at the Washington DC SOS rally by actor, and academy award winning writer, Matt Damon received a lot of positive reviews from a broad spectrum of observers.

After the speech, Damon was confronted by some right wing media. "Don't mess with Matt Damon" was the message that CNN reported.

He does a great job eviscerating the arguments of some of the least informed corporate education reformers.

Merit Pay Mess

The budget bill, HB153 contains a lot of provisions that affect public education and teachers. Few, if any, are well thought out. The law firm Muskovitz & Lemmerbrock recently wrote their analysis of HB153, which we have published in full below. Using that, let's take a quick look at teacher pay and evaluations.

First, forget your contract. HB153 prevails over that. From now on you will be paid depending upon;
(1) Your licensure level
(2) Whether you are highly qualified, or as some have smartly pointed out, whether you can breathe
(3) Your annual evaluation

The fun starts with these evaluations. You're going to get lumped into one of four ratings;
(1) Highly effective
(2) Effective
(3) Needs improvement
(4) Unsatisfactory

You will have noticed there isn't any middle ground here. Indeed, 2 of the levels could well lead to mass firings of teachers, as the analysis points out

These evaluations must then be used for decisions regarding compensation, nonrenewal, termination, layoffs and professional development. If a teacher received a rating of "unsatisfactory" for two consecutive years, a rating of "unsatisfactory" for two of three consecutive years, a rating of "needs improvement" for three consecutive years, or a combination of "unsatisfactory" and "needs improvement" for three consecutive years, the teacher loses his or her continuing contract.

The Buckeye Institute was salivating at this thought of being able to fire 25% of teachers. HB153 really does light the way for this to happen.

Now supporters of this will argue that if you are an effective teacher you have nothing to worry about. Well, let's take a look at how these evaluations will be performed.

In class observations - two 30 minute observations per year will be performed. Apart from being a huge administrative burden, which we laid out here, you also have to worry that the observation is performed by someone who is qualified to asses your work, and is going to be fair.

By far the biggest piece of the evaluation is Value Add - 50% of your evaluation in fact. We've talked a lot about how unreliable this measure is for individual teacher performance, here and here for example. But what if there's no data? Well that's ok, only 40% of your evaluation will be based on it. I know. Think about it.

Just in case observations and bad measurements aren't enough, the legislature adds one extra layer of crazy to the mix - parent and student survey's.

The evaluations will include whether parents and students are satisfied with a teacher, "which may be measured by surveys, questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback," the law reads.

A provision wirtten by the Onion.

To recap - your pay will no longer depend upon your collective bargaining contract, or step increases, but instead your pay, and your career, will be determined by measures that don't work, require more teaching to the test and open to subjective abuse by administrators. And just in case you're thinking to yourself - "I'll sue if they fire me unfairly", HB153 has that covered too - The bill specifically grants civil immunity to the local board of education and school board members for conducting these evaluations.

We here at Join the Future highly encourage you to contact your state Senator and tell them that these provisions need to be removed from the budget.

Contact your state Senator. Your career may depend upon it.

Budget Bill Analysis by Muskovotz - Attorneys at Law