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Real Education Reform: Letting Teachers Teach!Posted Friday, October 21, 2011, at 1:06 PM
Over the past few weeks, I have talked a lot about education and many people have asked me what "real education reform" means. Today I want to address that issue as we wind up this series on education.
First, we need to note what education reform is not. Education reform is not taking away teachers rights to bargain for things our students need like new text books, smaller class sizes, janitorial services and other classroom items. Taking away our teachers' rights to bargain for the tools our students need to be successful is not about education reform, but instead about politics.
Education reform is not about a back door process to get rid of tenure for our best teachers. Last session the General Assembly passed new laws, which I opposed, governing tenure. Under this system, teachers are arbitrarily scored on a scale of one to five. Teachers must teach for five years and score excellent two years in a row in order to receive tenure. On the surface this sounds like a good system, but the devil is in the details. As I talk to teachers & principals across my district--and across the state--they tell me that this new system simply doesn't work. Administrators don't have time to evaluate all of their teachers fairly; teachers are forced to spend too much of their day preparing to be evaluated and not enough focus is being placed on classroom instruction.
Furthermore, the state department of education is failing to do its job training administrators on new evaluation procedures. In fact, training for these new evaluations lasted only four days and by all accounts was vague, confusing and unproductive. This coupled with the fact that 60 percent of teachers don't receive the data the state uses to evaluate teachers, completely undercuts our teachers and the goals of last years Race to the Top grant.
So what is real education reform? Real education reform is giving our teachers the tools they need to help our students succeed. We achieve this when we allow them to bargain as a group for what they need to be successful. Real education reform is a system of tenure that works. We achieve this when we set high, but realistic standards for reaching this professional goal. Real education reform is a fair evaluation system that's not just an overly burdensome mandate on schools. We achieve this when we bring everyone to the table-teachers, principals & administrators- to set fair, realistic and simple rules for evaluations.
In the end, real education reform is about letting our teachers focus on what is important--educating our students. When we give teachers what they need to be successful, when we make tenure an achievable goal, when we evaluate them fairly they will rise to the occasion and prove once again that they are professionals up to the task of educating the next generation. That is real education reform.
If you have any questions about this new law or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my legislative office and we'll get your questions answered as soon as possible. Have a great week!
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