Monday, March 08, 2010

Press release by Education Reform Now

This press release by Education Reform Now, representing DFER and other reform groups in NY state, calls on the state legislature to act so NY can have a better shot at winning RttT money (currently, it has almost no shot).  It's a great example of the power of having many finalists:


To ensure that New York State competes strongly when it presents its case in Washington, legislative leaders should work quickly to enact five key initiatives:


1.      Eliminate the firewall that exists in state law that prevents school districts from using student performance data as one factor in teacher tenure decisions, and require that student growth, as measured by test scores and other objective assessments of student learning, be a significant factor in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. As the President has noted, it makes no sense that student learning is the one factor that specifically can't be considered in determining whether or not teachers are effective.


2.      Eliminate "Last In, First Out" state laws that punish new teachers and their students by laying off only the least senior teachers, regardless of their proven effectiveness in the classroom.  A recent survey by The New Teacher Project showed strong teacher support for layoffs to be made on the basis of quality and impact, and demonstrated that this can be done fairly and transparently.  Every student in New York State should have the best teacher we can give them, especially at times when layoffs become necessary. Schools should be able to make these types of decisions with the best interests of students at heart.


3.      Expedite the infamous "Rubber Room" process, by requiring the investigation and disciplinary hearing process for teachers to be completed within 90 days. Teachers should be suspended without pay where there is evidence of misconduct and/or poor performance, but reinstated with back pay and substantial penalties if the district cannot prove its case. Costly dismissal proceedings that last longer than murder trials are unfair to teachers and students alike. We cannot afford to wait for bureaucrats and union leaders to get this right. Action must be taken at the state level to ensure that our education dollars are being spent in actual classrooms.


4.      Stop paying teachers who don't have permanent positions. While districts are making plans for layoffs, in New York City more than $100 million is spent annually on a reserve pool of teachers who earn full salary and benefits but have not been able to secure full-time positions—even after many months or years and despite thousands of openings.  This is not fair to the students and teachers who need those resources in their classrooms. After a year in the reserve pool, teachers should be placed on unpaid leave so that New York City can avoid laying off dedicated teachers who hold regular classroom positions.


5.      Lift the cap that is preventing the growth of new public charter schools. We don't need to "protect" children from getting more and better educational options. Some of the best schools in the state are charter schools, which is why they are popular with parents and teachers. Leaders should lift the cap preventing more of these public schools, provide equitable funding to charter schools by eliminating the funding freeze and provide facilities funding, and support policies to replicate their success. The cap lift should not be done in a way which makes it even harder to open these exciting new schools.

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