Thursday, August 30, 2012

California Legislature assaults teachers while failing to pass adequate school funds

            Following assaults on teachers in Tennessee, New Jersey, New York and Florida – among others- the California legislature this week is using the “gut and amend” procedure to change the current teacher evaluation system in the state. The brutal assault in Florida led to the defeat of the moderate governor Christie by Tea Party advocates in 2010.
            In California legislators claiming to be responding to a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that Los Angeles was improperly implementing the current law, legislators are trying change the law before Friday using Assembly Bill 5.   An active advocate of the yet undefined plan is Michelle Rhee’s organization, so called “Students First.”
            Using the argument that these changes are necessary to respond to the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top,  which has never been passed into law, anti union forces are arguing for test based accountability systems.  These are popular politically on the right but they have failed in state after state to  improve the schools.
            The legislature could improve the schools by doing their job –that is to adequately fund the schools.  As California cuts over $5 billion from the schools conditions and learning in these schools deteriorate.  Instead of doing their job and providing the resources some legislators call for a new system of teacher evaluation.
            Recall that the California legislature has a 13% support rate from the voting public.  Teachers are one of the most valued professions we have in educating future generations.  Assaults from the right are both under funding our schools and driving people from the profession.

To develop great teachers and teaching--and deal with ineffective teachers--school districts and university teacher preparation programs  must overhaul current evaluation systems, but this can not be done by the poorly informed and corrupt legislature in the last week of a legislative session with limited analysis, discussion and debate.
The role of the teacher is to be a  guide, a  motivator,  a caretaker and an engaging intellectual. The teachers’  task is to preserve and extend a vision of  democratic possibility in education.  Central to this task is preserving quality public education.
The campaign of the  political right, and the anti teacher efforts are to weaken the autonomy and the authority of teachers by controlling salaries, evaluation, tenure, unions  and decision making.  These must be resisted. 
For reading:
See:  Henry Giroux.  “ In Defense of Public School Teachers  in a Time of Crisis,”  in Education and the Crisis of Public Values (2012).
Note: CTA supports the bill,  Here is their position. from

AB 5is a landmark measure that would implement best practices and common standards for teacher evaluation, that moves beyond test scores.
Teachers have long expressed dissatisfaction with the current process. CTA-supported AB 5 (Fuentes) makes it clear that the goal of the new evaluation system is to improve instruction and student learning. (Click here for the text of AB 5 and other legislative information).
AB 5 will help establish a fair, transparent, and comprehensive teacher evaluation system accountable to teachers, administrators, parents and students. (Click here for CTA's Teacher Evaluation Framework).
This significant change has been a long time coming and is addressed in AB 5. The bill could come up on the Senate floor as early as August 22. Senators need to hear from you, classroom teachers – and especially educators who are their constituents – about this vital policy shift.
Call your state Senator by using the phone numbers from the list below. You can also send an e-mail or fax to both your state Senator and state Assembly Member.
Please e-mail GR Communications Consultant Len Feldman ( to let him know you’ve made contact and to report any feedback you’ve received from a legislator’s office.
  • The goal of any evaluation system should be to strengthen the knowledge, skills and practices of teachers to improve student learning. Teachers, administrators and parents all agree that the current teacher evaluation system in California is not achieving this goal. Teachers are frustrated by a process that is often inconsistent, superficial, cursory, and provides very little feedback that improves their practice or enhances students’ learning. 
  • AB 5 provides a new approach to evaluating teachers that is comprehensive, is based on best practices and includes multiple measures for assessing teacher effectiveness. It is developed with the purpose of improving student achievement and provides a much needed common framework for teacher evaluations based on standards ofprofessional practice that acknowledge the multiple activities and responsibilities of educators that contribute to student achievement and school success. 
  • AB 5 moves beyond just test scores by including multiple measures of accountability. One thing doesn't make a good or bad teacher. Many qualities are at play and shouldn't be evaluated in order to determine a teacher's effectiveness. The reality is that every student is unique and has different abilities, motivations, and outside support. A teacher's job is to help students reach their fullest potential, whatever that may be. And while a test can be a good snapshot of that student's knowledge on a particular subject, it's not the entire picture of any student or any teacher.
  • Every local school district is like a little community. They have specific needs based on their student population and demographics which shape the work of teachers. The local educators, parents and administrators know what's best for their students. AB 5 recognizes this distinction and continues the practice of collectively bargaining any evaluation system at the local level to ensure the buy-in and trust of all affected parties and to ensure local conditions and student needs are considered. 
  • The purpose of AB 5 is to empower and engage. It involves parents and the community by requiring a town hall meeting before any local evaluation system is approved for use and a second meeting after the system is complete.
ed. note. 
CTA and Student First on on the same side?

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