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Teaching: Reform -- Or Reform "Lite" -- In Illinois?

image from 2.bp.blogspot.comLongtime readers know that there's nothing that makes me more suspicious than everyone claiming to get along and that victory has been achieved.  And, well, there's been an awful lot of self-congratulation and adulatory press coverage surrounding the IL senate's 59-0 approval of a reform package last week. Everyone worked so long and negotiated so hard, we're being told.  It's "model" reform.  But did reformers get as much as it seemed?  Did teachers and others give away so much without a peep?  Everyone seems to want to do a victory lap but let's take a look at some of the questions and concerns that should be raised.  The word sneaking out from Springfield is that some healthy skepticism should be in the mix.  What do you "get" when you get a 59-0 vote?  Let's take a look.

A quick look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation: The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off. There’s no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement. There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan. Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn’t respond within 45 days. The bill allows nontenured and unevaluated teachers to be fired first in a layoff situation (sounds like LIFO to me).  The bill allows the use of several seniority proxies (certification, qualifications, relevant experience) while ostensibly limiting the use of seniority. 

This isn't just me asking these questions -- though it's much easier to find frothy coverage than anything else.  Springfield education veteran Jim Broadway writes in today's SSNS update (A Closer Look At The Reform Bill PDF) notes how complicated the proposal is -- and how tight (unrealistic?) the timeframes are.  Yesterday's NYT (Emanuel Gets Boost, and Challenges, in Schools Bill) notes "daunting budget, educational, and labor obstacles" that stand in the way of extending the school day in Chicago, a key goal of everyone involved.  (The $300M cost is one obvious one.) The Tribune (Teachers Join Lawmakers in Drawing Up Reforms) notes that unions can still bargain (and strike) over wages.  Pro-union Substance News (New law forces CPS to establish layoff rules) claims the bill tightly limits layoffs and sets strict new timelines.  

It'd be interesting to see a side by side comparing the IL bill to the FL and CO laws, and to know if Advance and Stand consult with counterparts in these states when developing or negotiating the plan. If you've seen one or are willing to do one, let us know!
Is this model legislation developed through a model process, as is being claimed, or is it reform "lite," setting the bar extremely low and letting everyone declare victory without doing any of the really hard work?

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Related stories:

Edelman & Montgomery Fox Chicago:  The state of Illinois is on its way to a historic overhaul of the education system. FOX Chicago Sunday discussed what it will mean for teachers, students and parents, and how it will be implemented...  

Unions Respond to Education Overhaul Fox Chicago:  Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery warns that his members in Chicago will want more money if they're told to work more hours... 

Emanuel says longer school day is not negotiable WBEZ: Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is standing behind a measure that would allow Chicago Public Schools to extend instructional hours.

Education reform 'changes game' PJ Star:  It would do away with teacher seniority, make it easier to weed out bad teachers, link teacher performance to student achievement and curb teachers' right to strike. It also would require training for school board members. 

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