Sunday, February 17, 2013


One of the Big Idea school reform bills to get attention early in the session was Senate Bill 5237, prime sponsored by Senator Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup.  He said that it was all about "the critical juncture" between 3rd and 4th grade.  He said it was about dropout prevention and improving the graduation rate.  He said it was about closing the achievement gap and putting kids on a successful path for life.  He had an ally in Stand for Children, who had to commit a classic Lie of Omission to justify their support, but Stand has proven this year more than any other that they don't really care what the reform does, as long as it's something they can call reform.

Everyone else said that this bill was absolute nonsense.  That making the MSP a high stakes test, when we're getting ready to roll out new standards related to the Common Core and the new tests that will follow, was the absolute antithesis of what kids need.  That retaining a kid who was struggling in reading, but OK in every other subject, was pedagogically unsound, and that retention in general is linked to higher drop-out rates.  The bill summary gives a nice, tidy overview of both sides of the discussion.

The result was a complete re-do, which you can see in the substitute bill that was heard in the Ways and Means Committee.  The retention piece was moved from the 3rd grade test to the 4th grade test, which isn't any better, but there's also a lot of pieces about intervention and professional development, which looked great until the financial guys came back with an $80 million dollar price tag that had the Ways and Means Committee clutching their pearls at the shock of actually having to fund stuff.

A similar bout of apoplexy occurred in the Senate K-12 Committee on Friday morning during a hearing on Senate Bill 5242, which would provide 10% bonuses for math and science teachers.....

(Secondary math and science teachers, who have at least 50% of their day as math and science, and who are deemed excellent under criteria that hasn't been written yet by the Professional Educator Standards Board.  So if you're a 5th grade science teacher, or only teach two periods a day of math, or don't meet whatever standard the PESB comes up with--sucks for you!)

....when the GOP members of the committee didn't like the cost estimate that OSPI came up with for what those bonuses would cost ($70m every two years).  Crosscut did a short story on the meeting as well.

So the Senate K-12 Committee, the new Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight, with Crazy Stevie as the chair, not only can't pass the ideas that they do like (grading schools!), they can't find the money to pay for the bonus program they want either, and those bills that do make it over to the House will be given the mercy of a quick death unless they have some sort of blessing from Sen. McAuliffe.

I've said before that Senator Litzow may not be good at his job, but I take it back--for guys like me who want to snark about education politics, he's an answered prayer.

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