Disqus

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interview with the Governor

Publicola had an interview with Governor Gregoire and she had some interesting things to say about education:

PubliCola: It seems more aggressive than the one you laid out. [Gregoire announced a reform proposal last week—AP report here— that will put a pilot project of 4-tiered teacher evaluations in play statewide]. It ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, calls for charter schools, and allows the state to step in and take over failing schools. It’s in sync with President Obama’s education reform agenda. The proposal you came out with last week seems like a “lite” version of that to education reformers [because the evaluations aren't tied explicitly to "student academic growth"].

Gregoire: I don’t really think so. I think what it is is a Washington reform. The most recent studies on charter schools come out of Stanford. And there’s no guarantee of anything there. As many as there are doing OK, there are an equal number that are not. … Why would we go down a path where there’s no big success to be had? And our voters have already turned [charters] down three times.

I developed this lab school idea, which serves two purposes: One, you have our four-year university schools partner up with one of our bottom five percent schools and really run the school and get them to transition out of their low performance. And two, you really do take your schools of education and improve them dramatically, because if they’re going to train teachers, what better training for them than to be inside a classroom and see what works and what doesn’t work?

PubliCola: What about tying test scores to teacher evaluations?

Gregoire: So, come with me to a school that I went to in the Renton School District—28 kids in this guy’s classroom when he starts the school year, and at the end of the year he has eight of the original 28. So we’re going to say to a teacher, your career rests and falls on a class of eight because the other 20 transferred out?

Is it hypothetically a good idea? Sure—when we can make sure that it works. Until then, I think it’s a huge mistake.

PubliCola: Using that logic, you get critiqued from the other side, the union side. Your proposal will be statewide evaluations. So, why should a teacher in one district be judged the same way a teacher in another district is judged when there are different communities and different needs?

Gregoire: There are eight criteria and 16 school districts that have been piloting, from rural to urban, and those 16 have done it together and they have done a marvelous job … because it didn’t come from the top down, it came based on research and best practices of education experts around the country.
So, if I am [an] unsatisfactory [teacher] here, then it’s my principal’s job to take care of me here, and if I can’t get it together over the course of that school year and raise myself to basic, I need to look for employment elsewhere. And elsewhere doesn’t mean I go across town [to another school.]

7 comments:

Sahila said...

based on these superficialities, I like what she has to say...

hope this isnt just a case of "tell them what they want to hear" weasel words ...

Jan said...

Well, Sahila, on the one hand, she IS a politician by trade -- and words always get a little slipperier when you have played in that arena too long --
But on the other hand, Gregoire is very smart, has excelled in a number of high level positions by being able to think critically -- rather than just following whatever the current fad is).

I agree with you -- there is more to like than not like -- though there are lots of "unknowns" there -- in terms of how we DO evaluate teachers. The thing that bothers me most is that she is leaving -- so the fate of all this rests in the hands of either Inslee or McKenna. I wish I knew what their positions were, and had more confidence in their critical faculties (with Inslee, I just don't know much; with McKenna, I am alarmed at what I see as his willingness to let party positions (opposition to the federal mandate in healthcare, for example) override his intelligence.

Anonymous said...

"allows the state to step in..."

And what would that accomplish? Let me know when the politicians start stepping in on homelessness, poverty and lack of funding. Then I'll be a believer.

Wasn't Gregoire's mother a teacher? I wonder what her eval would look like?

In case you can't tell, I'm tired of the single solution "blame-the-teacher" rubric. Nice and simple for people who can't or won't address more complex problems.

northender

dan dempsey said...

Northender said:

Nice and simple for people who can't or won't address more complex problems.

There sure a a large number of such people around these days..... and sadly some of them are voting on legislation in Olympia.

Jan said...

northender: I agree. The less the state "steps in" -- the better. I realize that a portion of funding is through the state, so there is a centralized collection of tax receipts -- and then a delivery of dollars to each district. But other than that, record keeping, and legal compliance -- I think the state should step OUT -- unless they actually wanted to become sort of a "clearinghouse" for district generated or district requested things that have been proven to work and are passed "up" to them for the purpose of being shared. Unfortunatly, they appear to want to do more "passing down" to the schools.

john said...

The Governor, quoted in the AP article, said,
"We want to make sure the public feels confident that we have everybody at the proficiency-or-above level."

She said this in support of moving teachers who are evaluated as 'Basic' for two years onto probation.

While I am not sure whether her idea is a good one, since the new evaluation system hasn't been around long enough for a serious evaluation itself, I am concerned about the reasoning behind her proposal.

Other than polls, has there been any kind of research done on-

1. What the current public perceptions are. I haven't seen any systematic and credible research on this. How do we know that the public lacks confidence in the quality of teachers?

2. What information the public is using to form their perceptions. What is out there for people to grab onto? The press isn't exactly an unbiased font of good research on this. The Seattle Times has their collective head up a certain rich boy's buttocks. From astro-turf organizations to bought-off university departments, to 'Stepford Wives'-like administrators, he is having a huge effect on this debate. The good folks lined up against him can't generate the kind of media war of attrition that he and his can. So the debate is skewed toward his point of view. I think it is fair to assert that public perception is also skewed toward his point of view.

3. How accurate their perceptions are. I would argue that most people are unaware that they have been played and have gone the extra mile to look at the arguments against his teacher-bashing onslaught. But what is reality? Are there so many bad teachers that we need to radically alter the way they are evaluated? Has anyone bothered to conduct sound research on this issue? What if this isn't a real issue at all but actually a red herring to distract us from reality-based problems such as poverty, lack of adequate funding, overcrowded classrooms, or under-trained pseudo-teachers coming out of 5 week training programs? Could that be a possibility?

I would understand if the Governor had access to good data about this issue. Then I would support her. But she doesn't. She is basing her policy proposals on the same mis-information that is being fed to John Q. Public. By doing so she steers the State ever closer to the corporate reform model.

Maybe I am being too hard on our Governor. Maybe I am wrong to believe that she can separate fact from fiction. Maybe I am being naive, but I expect better leadership from her than this.

Charlie Mas said...

I can't wait to see every public employee assessed on a similar scale and the dismissal of any state employee who is found to be rated as "basic" for two consecutive years.

Aren't all state employees going to be held to the same standard?