Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Florence Shapiro Lays Another Egg

Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro is having a field day with Texas public school teachers this session. Her SB 1643 is a particularly menacing bill that links student progress on standardized tests to whether the teacher should be fired.

I kid you not.

Here’s how it works.

First, Shapiro’s bill redefines what will go into a teacher’s annual professional evaluation. In Texas it is called a PDAS or Professional Development and Appraisal System.

Here, in addition to what is already included in an appraisal, is what Shapiro wants Texas teachers to be evaluated on:
The recommended appraisal process must provide that consideration of criteria relating to student performance under Subsection (a)(2) constitutes a majority of a teacher's appraisal. Additionally, the recommended appraisal process must provide that the portion of a teacher's appraisal that concerns student performance is conducted in accordance with the following guidelines:
(1) at least 25 percent of that portion of the appraisal must be based on objective, quantifiable measures of the achievement and progress of the teacher's students, such as state assessment instruments, local benchmarking systems, portfolio assessments, and value-added assessments;
(2) at least 10 percent of that portion of the appraisal must be based on the overall performance or progress of students enrolled at the teacher's campus;
(3) measures of student progress must be used whenever possible; and
(4) observable measures of student performance may be used when appropriate.

This is the ultimate in adding professional insult to injury. Now we have a State Senator who wants to rate a teacher’s effectiveness based not only on their own students’ test scores but also on the test scores of every other teachers’ students in the school.

Now this ordinarily would bring stretches and yawns to veteran teachers. PDAS evaluations are a joke. They offer no incentive to be highly rated, and are typically not used to get rid of a teacher.

Not this time.

Reading further down we find this in the bill:
(d) If a teacher receives an unsatisfactory appraisal for three consecutive years, a school district shall decline to renew the teacher's contract in the manner provided by this chapter.
Did you see that? “Shall” not “may”. The district must fire a teacher if after three years their students are still doing poorly on state mandated standardized tests.

That makes the bill unfriendly.

Want to hear some consequences if this bill becomes law?

(1) No teacher will want to teach low ability students. Teaching low ability students will spell a death sentence for a teacher. I personally know teachers who request nothing but students with low learning ability because they feel they are most effective with these kids. Effective enough to get them to pass TAKS? Not always. There are other things to teach these kids – things that they can use.

Imagine teaching a class full of students with sub-100 IQs, dyslexia, Turret’s, Limited English Proficiency, and out and out sociopaths, all of this mixed in with “G/T Gangstas” who are too busy writing computer programs to do their chemistry homework. It’s a zoo.

And it’s a zoo that no one will want to teach anymore if it means that they will be fired in 3 years.

(2) In the public school system, as opposed to private school, all students are welcomed. Private schools have screening tests and “cherry pick” their student body. But if a teacher’s job depends on student performance, doesn’t it become the right of an individual teacher to refuse to teach someone? I am reaching a little here, but not much. I think the US Constitution's 14th Amendment is applicable:

“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

If it means being fired, then I think this means teachers have the right to say “No” to teaching a student.

(3) Given that (2) above is ignored, what would stop an administrator or a counselor from loading an unwanted or unpopular teacher with classfulls of low performance students? It can be done, you know. Easily. After 3 years the state ties their hands and the teacher has to go.

All I could come up with, for now, are three horrific outcomes. With outcomes like this, who in their right mind would want to teach in Texas public schools? Who does Ms. Shapiro think will step up to the plate to teach Texas youth when all that gets pitched at them are beanballs?

If I think of other outcomes, I will post updates to this.


Van said...

Hmmmm. Does Dear Florence need to be reminded of Leave No Child Behind? There will be tons of students who will be left behind with no one to teach them because no one wants their career jeopardized. Who wants to be punished for taking children who refuse to learn? There are the GT/Honors kids who no matter what you throw at them they master. A high school teacher has to work his or her butt off to become a psychologist, parent, mentor, cheerleader, diagnostician and educational therapist for every child who has had 9-12 years of mastering the art of learning refusal, and gets rewarded negatively. Do other professions in Texas have things like this? If nail technicians have three complaints do they jerk their certifications? If three patients of a psychologist are not "cured" does the psychologist lose their license to practice in Texas? No wonder we are the laughing stock of educators in other states. If this doesn't seal the fate of bringing in vouchers, I don't know what will.

claudia said...

here is my reaction on my blog:
For the Texans: (If you are in the US, be on the look out for this bogus bill coming to a school district near you and fight very hard against it.) I am a woman that is hard press to make a political opinion, HOWEVER SB 1643, will essentially tie student's test scores to my evaluation, my paycheck, as well as my job.

During my first year of teaching, I got so sick and tired of my stinky kid in the classroom being both stinky and without homework that I decided to pay a "surprise" (they never had their phone on) visit to her house. It was marvelous seeing her dad pop open his third can of beer watching the latest boxing match on a flat screen huge tv. (I hope you know I am being sarcastic about the marvelous.) That was also the year, I had the fourth grader that took the principal's car for a ride start a neighborhood "party" in which more than 5 police cars arrived after school. Oh did I mention, the numerous numerous of talks I had about appropriate touching for both males and females. I can keep going, but you get the picture. Because of my pretty face and a promise I made to God to walk miles on my knees if my class passed, they were miraculously infused with knowledge the day of the test and passed. Wake up!! I was in my classroom from 5:30am until the janitors kicked me out from Monday to Saturday. When I wasn't there I was taking professional development classes or grading papers in front of the tv with my take out. Even with all that, my students, who came from an all Spanish classroom the year before, were hard press to pass the writing and reading portion of the test.

Teaching is a rewarding job because of all the hurdles teachers jump teaching persevere and hard work to their students. If I have to say the formula 300 times and do dance and song, buddy you are gonna get that, but this bill will make teachers think twice about their career. SB 1643 will restrict teachers to a workbook approach hitting solely on TAKs and will essentially take the curiosity and fun from learning.

This bill will also foster a very hostile and uncomfortable climate between administration and staff. Think about it, the principal may not be the bad guy but if your numbers are bad, that is going on your permanent record. I can foresee alot of the teachers just walking out and saying, "Well, you are going to fire me anyways." Or maybe, like Half Empty says, they might just load one teacher with all those special kids. There is nothing that public school teacher will be able to do about it, either and it's going to look awful on the evaluation. Besides evaluations are difficult to contest because the person writing it is the highest power beside the superintendent. None of the comments or words get retracted and all you can do is attach a letter to it before it gets sent downtown.

This bill will promote stress which will make cheating on the test an extremely happy option. (Especially when teachers don't want to loose all the education, money and hard work they've put into that teaching license.) Do we really want to repeat the ugly headlines on the Houston Chronicle? It's counter intuitive.

This bill unfairly and disproportionately affects minorities. It takes at least four years to make a decent teacher who is happy and knows the material. Well, the place where most young teachers start is the inner city, which has many of the above mentioned problems in minority homes. If they have to leave, two years into the show then what kind of legacy/quality student have they left for the upcoming teacher? So as the child goes further into their academic career, they fall lower each time so that each successive teacher will have to get that good teaching gene infused. Think of both the teacher's and student's moral. Bad.

Florence....what are you thinking?

So please either paste my post of the following line,

Ms. Shapiro, SB 1643 is not a bill that would benefit anyone and I will ask that you retract it. I am a (Texan/citizen/supporter of education) and I will make sure to tell all my friends about it.

Bloggers, do not let your teachers go insane in that cold, cold night.

claudia said...

hey how do i contact shapiro?

Hal said...

All of Florence Shapiro's phone numbers are at this webpage including an email form to send her a message.

Anonymous said...

Can we get this bill passed for parents? Let's make parents accountable for their children. If they get three consecutively bad evaluations, they get fired from being a parent.

Parents can be evaluated on the following criteria:

1. A clean home
2. Proper food in the pantry/cabinets
3. Children are taught manners
4. No drugs in the home
5. No violence in the home
6. Children learn respect of others
7. Properly discipline their students
8. Help their children with homework
9. Read to their children on a regular basis
10. Spend time teaching their children a hobby or activity

If we want to cure all the problems in our educational system, we need to cure the problems in our homes. However, until we do this, teaching will be a difficult profession.

Jokehh said...

Claudia -
the term is hard pressed not hard press.
adjective 1. under pressure, pushed (informal) harried, in difficulties, up against it (informal) with your back to the wall
adjective 2. pushed, (informal) in difficulties, up against it (informal)
BTW Florence made it rasier for you by doing away with TAKS ... now lets see what excuse teachers come up with for not being sucessful.

Hal said...


Thank you for your belated comment on this year-old(and more)post. Your snarky comments on a commenter's English is duly noted.

Now what do you possibly mean by the word "rasier"? Is this a new word?

And when you use the word "lets," does that mean "to allow" in the plural sense? Or did you forget to include the apostrophe? As in "let's?" A contraction of let us?

Let us not nit pick the commenters unless we have our grammar correct amongst us.

In another's words, Judge not lest ye be judged.

- Matthew 7:1