Delaware Combats Cyberbullying

In light of recent issues that have come to national attention, Delaware is leading the way in reform against cyberbullying.  Based on proposals from the Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and Education Committee Chairs, two bills that combat cyberbullying were signed into law in this state.

Leading up to the signing of SB 193 and HB 268, leaders conducted statewide public hearings.  These hearing were used to gather factual evidence from school officials and parents about bullying.

SB 193 will allow for the Department of Education to issue a final cyberbullying policy.  Each public and private school will be required within a 90 day period to adopt the policy.  SB 193 also allows the Attorney General’s office to defend schools that may face  a legal challenge due to the implementation of the cyberbullying policy.  Lt. Governor Denn said, “This statewide policy will allow schools to clearly tell students what type of social media conduct is unacceptable, and it will provide legal support from the Attorney General’s office for districts where the policy is challenged.”

HB 268 is designed to protect students against cyberbullying by requiring consistency in the reporting of bullying incidents among all schools.  The Department of Education will use this legislation to being auditing a number of schools every year, with the intent of ensuring the schools are properly investigating and reporting all bullying incidents.  HB 268 further requires school to report both substantiated and “unsubstantiated” incidents of bullying to the Department of Education.

Representative Terry Schooley, the lead House sponsor of both bills said, “Bullying in any form creates fear and intimidation in our schools, and it leads to students performing poorly, not going to school for fear of being bullied or in some cases, committing suicide. When you take into account that means of communication such as social media, computers and cell phones post information far more publicly than previous generations could ever imagine, the issue becomes even more serious. By signing these bills into law, we are trying to increase reporting and stay ahead of the curve to protect our children and grandchildren.”

This post was prepared by Chelsea Keenan Albany Law School ’14

 

 

National Governors Association: Models of Teacher Compensation

To add to a previous post discussing how teacher evaluations in New York are going to affect school aid, the Natoinal Governors Association (NGA) has found a growing interest in new models of teacher compensation based on evaluation.  As such the NGA hosted a policy academy focused on the issue designed to provide assistance, advice, experts, and networking opportunities with other states.

NGA selected six states, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, to participate in the policy academy.  Collectively the states came up with several recommendations for state action including:

1) ensuring assessment and data systems are capable of measuring student learning growth, providing estimates of value added, and linking student assessment scores to individual teachers, 2) identifying tools and measures for gauging teacher effectiveness that go beyond student test scores (such as classroom observation, aggregate, schoolwide student learning gains, teacher portfolios, student artifacts, teacher value-added scores, and student growth measures), 3) providing high-level leadership and engaging key stakeholders to develop frameworks, guidelines, and details of new compensation structures, and 4) using reform efforts at the state level in ways that complement one another and maximize other opportunities.

Traditionally, teacher compensation was based on the levels of education being tougher and additional years of experience, and pay-for-performance initiatives are bonus based.  However, recently research has shown that although experience matters in student achievement, the impact of experience declines after the first few years of teaching.  Also, with a bonus based pay-for-performance compensation model, when budgets are constrained the bonuses are vulnerable to cuts.

Florida

Florida started the policy academy with a comprehensive assessment system including measures to determine how much of an impact a teacher has relative to student learning (“value-added” measures).  Also, a Florida state statute already requires every teacher and administrator to be evaluated at least once a year, with a focus on performance of the educator’s students.  Due to the enactment of the statute Florida has attempted numerous pay-for-performance initiatives, including; A-Plus Education Plan, E-Comp, STAR Program, and MAP Program.  All of these programs have ultimately failed.

The policy academy helped Florida to determine why previous programs had failed, and to open a dialogue between lawmakers and educators in hopes of being able to satisfy everyone’s needs.  Ultimately the legislature passed Senate Bill 6, which was then vetoed by then Governor Charlie Crist.  Bill 6 would have, “eliminated tenure for newly hired teachers, eliminated pay scales based on experience and advanced degrees, and required school districts to establish performance pay for teachers and school leaders.”  Despite the veto, many of the components of Bill 6 were included in the state’s Race to the Top grant application to the U.S. Department of Education.  Those districts that receive part of the grant agreed to incorporate measures of student learning growth into teacher and principal evaluations.

In 2011, Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 736, which was similar in its accomplishments to Bill 6.  Bill 736 ended tenure and replaced the traditional salary schedule with performance pay based on performance evaluations.

Indiana

Indiana is new to the comprehensive student assessment system, so the policy academy was being used to help the state get started.  Indiana leaders wanted to develop a new teacher compensation plan, and to transition the use of a student growth model in the school accountability system.  However, Indiana law prohibited principals from using student scores on the state assessments in teacher evaluations.

The policy academy helped Indiana learn more about the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), and to discuss TAP with Tennessee and Louisiana, two states that have already implemented the program.  The state also applied for a Teacher Incentive Fund grant, to support the implementation of the TAP model.  State leaders also began to pursue legislative changes and ended up the Senate Bill 1, requiring new, annual teacher evaluations, and Senate Bill 575, which limits collective bargaining and specifies that districts cannot collectively bargain the procedures or criteria for evaluating teachers.

Kansas

Kansas formed the Teaching in Kansas Commission in 2007, which was designed to focus on a teacher shortage.  The commission recommended 59 different things that were grouped into three stages of implementation.  The first phase involved teacher training, recruitment, and retention, and was implemented quickly.  At the time of the policy academy the state had not yet implemented the second phase, which involved more significant changes related to compensation.

With the state first starting out on its new teacher compensation journey, much of the effect of the policy academy was to open up dialogue among educators, and to conducts surveys determining how individual districts handle performance-based compensation.  The state also prepared its federal Race to the Top grant application.  Kansas now wants to implement a pay-for-performance pilot, but due to economic condition cannot fund such an undertaking.

Louisiana

The state of Louisiana has developed a Blue Ribbon Commission for Education Excellence.  This commission is used to study a problem, produce recommendations, and take policy action.  In 2009-2010 the commission announced its area of focus as teacher compensation.  The state already has in place a value-added assessment model, and was in the efforts of expanding these measures.  Louisiana also has successfully piloted the TAP program in some schools.

Louisiana created the Louisiana Comprehensive Teacher Compensation Framework.  The framework includes principles from the TAP model and is meant to guide districts in developing new compensation models.  After recommendations by the commission legislative changes were made.  Act 54, also known as the Value-Added Bill, changed the way schoolteachers are evaluated.  The state department applied for grants to implement these legislative changes.  Louisiana received a federal TIF grant.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island had previously made efforts to develop a state-wide performance management system for teachers that would include new models of compensation.  The goals of the new model include; 1) evaluation based on statewide professional standards for teachers and school leaders, 2) career advancement opportunities for teacher leaders other than moving into school administration, 3) ongoing, job-embedded professional development tied to evaluation, 4) meaningful awarding of tenure and advanced certification, and 5) performance-based compensation.

With help from the policy academy, Rhode Island accomplished many of its goals.   The state began to build support from stakeholders and school leaders.  The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers received a grant to support the development for a comprehensive teacher evaluation and support system.

Tennessee

Tennessee has a history of creating new models of teacher compensation.  The Tennessee General Assembly adopted legislation that required all school districts to submit differentiated pay plans.  However, due to budget constraints the schools could not initiate their pay plans.  The state was also recognized for its Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.  This system produced estimates of teacher contribution to growth in student learning.

Tennessee received a Race to the Top grant and a statewide TIF grant.  The state also initiated the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.  This act commits the state to implementing a new annual evaluation system for teachers.  At least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on a student achievement.

From the experiences of each of the six states the NGA came up with recommendations for state action. Other states considering new models of teacher compensation should; “Ensure that assessment and data systems are capable of measuring student growth, providing estimates of value added, and linking student assessment scores to individual teachers.” As well as, “identify additional tools and measures for gauging teacher effectiveness that go beyond student test scores; develop teacher evaluations based on multiple measures; and use evaluation results to identify professional development and other supports for improving effectiveness.”  State must also “leverage reform efforts at the state level to that they complement one another and maximize other opportunities.”

The NGA article can be found here and report found here.

This post was prepared by Chelsea Keenan Albany Law School ’14

Illinois’ Controversial Proposed Pension Reform

With many cheering, and many picketing, Illinois’ proposed pension reform is very controversial.  Governor Quinn has avoided reforming the pension system until recently when he announced a bold plan that is designed to secure retirement for public workers and to fix the state’s pension issue at the same time.

The major highlights of this proposal include:

  • 3% increase in employee contributions
  • Reduce cost of living adjustment
  • Delay the cost of living adjustment to earlier of age 7 or 5 years after retirement
  • Increase retirement age to 67
  • Establish 30-year closed actuarially required contribution funding schedule

This proposal is expected to save taxpayers $65 to $85 billion.  However, there are concerns from those whose pensions are being adjusted.  Many teachers in the state have taken to picketing government offices.  School districts and teachers are concerned that under this reform the employer will be responsible for paying the costs of pensions.  Elementary school superintendent Kevin Skinkis stated, “I am very concerned that the governor will shift [teacher retirement system] employer pension cost to school districts.  This would cause. . . financial distress and it would force us to have to make some serious reductions to a budget that is already carrying a deficit.”

With only six days left in the spring legislative session, the entire state of Illinois is watching and waiting on the fate of public workers’ pensions.

This post was prepared by Chelsea Keenan Albany Law School ’14

Race To The Top For Education Aid: New York Taking a Different Approach to Teacher Evaluations

Governor Cuomo has taken New York in a new direction with the evaluation of teachers in an effort to raise the bar in New York schools.  A deal was struck between Gov. Cuomo, teachers unions, and John B. King Jr. (state Education Commissioner) in February that rearranges how teachers in New York will have their performance evaluated.  It is critical in a down economy to take advantage of the millions of dollars in aid that is at stake in the federal race to the top education funding scheme.  Some states are learning that there are many different issues with using teacher evaluations as one mechanism to increase student standardized test score.

However, the deal in New York would allow 60% of teacher evaluations to be based on classroom observation and other standards not related to standardized testing, making student performance worth 40% of a teachers grade.  This is a deviation from heavy reliance on classroom visits and peer-reviewed classrooms.  Of that 40%, 20 % can be from analyzing student progress on state tests.  Another 20% can be from three options: 1) state standardized tests, 2) third-party assessments, and 3) tests approved by the state Education Department, which can be locally created.

In addition, if a teacher scores 64% or lower on their evaluations they are deemed “ineffective” and may face dismissal.  A score of 65%-74%  would classify a teacher as “developing” and require improvements.  A score of 75%-90% proves a teacher is “effective” and anything higher would be “highly effective” and deserving of a merit increase or perk.

How a school decides to structure the evaluation system and reward perks for successful teachers is up to the local authority.  Furthermore, the local school districts has the ability to set up an appeals process for teachers.  For the elements they have control over, a local school district must reach a plan within one year.  This plan must be approved by the state education commissioner.  If no plan is set in place within a year Gov. Cuomo announced that he will deny a scheduled 4% increase in state aid from that school district.

An article from the Wall Street Journal discussing the agreement can be found here.