Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Late Budget is Going to Mean Mass Teacher Layoffs

I shat my pants:
Among the highlights from their AWB Lobby Lunch address Thursday:

•The House plans to unveil its budget proposal first, and the Senate will follow about a week later.
•Don't expect the House to release its budget on a Friday - more like a Monday or Tuesday. (But probably not this coming Monday or Tuesday.)
Those comments are from Ross Hunter and Ed Murray, the lead budget writers in the House and Senate respectively. That could mean, if you take them at their word, that we wouldn't see a budget until April 11th. If the Senate followed a week later, on the 18th, that would give them about a week to resolve all their differences and get on the same page before adjournment on Easter Sunday.

That's not just unlikely, it's impossible. What gets quite interesting is if the budget is delayed past May 15th, which is the deadline in the RCWs for school districts to notify teachers if they're at risk of layoff. If there's not a state budget, many school districts will go right to the worst case scenario and RIF deeeeeeeeeeeep up the seniority list. In my school district of 125 certificated staff, I wouldn't be surprised to see 25 get notified. Imagine those ratios in a place like Seattle, Spokane, or Kent.

It's going to be a bloody spring.

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Values: They're Totally Flexible!

Bret Davis of the Freedom Foundation:
"Of course, leaving the state is far worse than a so-called “procedural shenanigan” and more akin to running away like spoiled children who weren’t getting their way. And this guy Miller has the chutzpah to whine about Republicans cleverly revising the law so that it no longer required a quorum and passed it through the Senate?"
That "clever revision" you're praising, Brett? It pretty clearly violated the open meeting laws in Wisconsin. You know, the kind of laws that the Freedom Foundation was praising three days before your post.

Criticism of the Wisconsin 14 may be warranted, but this was a really silly line of attack to use.

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The WEST-E and Teacher Quality

A couple of years back Washington State decided to make passing the WEST-E test a requirement for initial certification. It was done in the spirit of raising the bar, making sure teachers are highly qualified, and verifying content area knowledge.

But has it worked?

On Eastern's website they have a list put together by the education department of WEST-E passing rates for the students in the program. It's worth a close look because of what it says about both Eastern and the state writ large:

  1. Eastern's Middle Level Math program is doing pretty good things; 15 students passed the WEST-E out of 15 students tested.
  2. Eastern's Social Studies program has a problem; 28 of 52 students passed the test (53.9%), significantly below the average state passing rate of 82.94%.
  3. There's still people studying how to teach French. No, really!
What I found even more interesting that the stats for the alma mater, though, were the statewide passing rates. For choral music, for example, the passing rate is 100%--63 for 63. In English and Language Arts the passing rate is 96.7%, 557 out of 576--19 failures. The worst subject statewide is Middle Level Science, where barely 50% of the candidates (112 out of 221) passed the certification test.

You could argue that if you want the test to be a filter then it's serving that purpose in Middle Level Science, but certainly not in choral music. On the other hand, if the test is designed to have the kids demonstrate their mastery then we have great choral music programs, but our middle level science programs at the University level are lagging behind.

The deeper question, though, is whether the time and effort put into the WEST-E is really strengthening the teaching profession. I can't say that I've seen it--most of the kids look at it as just one more thing--but perhaps there's evidence to the contrary.

It's great for testing contractors, at least.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

When the Left Hand Flips Off the Right Hand

Here's a blog post from Bill Lyne of Western Washington University talking about Western Governors University, and not in the most flattering of terms. Bill's a good guy who does a lot of work on four year colleges with the WEA.

Here's the NEA talking about their shiny partnership with Western Governors University.

That's an oops.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spot the Humor

"These are organized interests that are lobbying in the capital. Meanwhile, the rest of us across the state who are busy with our ordinary lives, we don't have time to come to the capital and argue against tax increases."
Paul Guppy, Washington Policy Center, who really does have time to go to the capital and argue against tax increases.


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Here's an Example of What's Wrong With OSPI

Last week they put out a press release touting an agreement with a company called ESRI to make a license for their product available to every school in the state.

I don't know their software--it looks nice enough based on the website, I suppose--but what I do know is that if OSPI is buying shiny toys during the worst economic downturn that most of us have ever seen, that's a problem.

I've been teaching long enough to see how this goes. Somebody with distance from the classroom falls in love with a program, and the next thing we know there's a site license and a training on how to use the thing. Some teachers, though, opt out. Eventually the whole thing peters out. The money is wasted.

Essentially, it's a local control argument, and this press release shows that OSPI doesn't get it. If school districts want this, then let school districts get it. Buying this thing for everyone from Selkirk to Seattle is a waste, because even if 90% use it you've tossed away the money on the 10% who won't. Here you have OSPI not only making the purchase but touting it as an effort that is worth their time, and that's a pretty good insight into the thinking of the Dorn administration.

I've put in an email to find out what the contract was worth. That'll be an interesting number.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Dear Trent England

Here's Brad Shannon using left-of-center.

Here's two examples of the phrase left leaning.

Here's one where he calls the National Education Association left-leaning.

Google gives 1,850,000 results for the phrase "hard left" and 4,680,000 for "hard right".

Do you still want to stick with "imbalance in the political monikers employed by Shannon and the Olympian"?

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