domingo, marzo 27, 2005
back on task
"I don't think you should try to pull the wool over teachers' eyes unless you want to tell the world you think you have a bunch of stupid teachers"
-Rodolfo Reyna, retired math teacher from Del Rio, during a rally at the Capitol to push the Senate to overhaul the House education bill
Here are a few of the bill's major provisions as outlined by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. I'm particularly tickled by the provisions for superintendent pay and funding formulas for bilingual ed.
House Bill 2 calls for sweeping reform
HB 2 is described as including more than $3 billion in new funding for public schools, but some experts estimate that the actual number could be lower.
The proposal would reduce the cap on local property taxes from the current $1.50 to $1, but would allow districts to raise taxes above that level locally, with voter approval, by no more than 2 cents per year to a total of 10 cents above the $1.
The bill does not provide a funding source for the increases in education funding. The expectation of House leadership is that HB 3 (the revenue-raising bill) will raise money for the property tax relief, and that the new funds needed for HB 2 would come from cuts in the state budget.
As it passed out of the House Public Education Committee, the bill did not include an across-the-board pay raise. An amendment on the House floor provided some sort of pay raise, although the language is confusing and the implications are unclear. Essentially it would dedicate a percentage of new money received by districts to those subject to the state minimum salary schedule (teachers, registered nurses, counselors and librarians). It is funded using the existing money in HB 2.
While described in the media as a $3,000 pay raise, the amendment as written would not guarantee $3,000 for all teachers. Instead, it would require districts to use a portion of new state and local revenue (every district is assured of at least a 3 percent increase) for increased teacher compensation, up to $3,000. It should be noted that the exemptions for exemplary schools included in HB 2 (described on page 3) also would exempt exemplary schools and districts from complying with any requirement for a teacher pay raise.
The bill also deletes the mechanism for automatically raising the state minimum salary schedule as districts have access to additional funding. Failure to have such a “salary driver” is likely to result in Texas teachers falling farther below the national average over time.
Each step of the state minimum salary schedule is increased by $1,000, and the $500 health insurance supplement is eliminated. This is nominally a conversion of the full $1,000 from a health insurance supplement to salary for teachers and others on the salary schedule, but may not apply to teachers in districts that use a “mid-point” salary structure rather than a traditional salary schedule. The supplement is structured to be on top of 2004-05 compensation, but there is no assurance it will be a “pass through” beyond the 2005-06 school year. The supplement would be eliminated completely for any employee not on the salary schedule, including paraprofessionals, support staff, etc.
A nonbinding statement of intent is added to law to reflect the Legislature’s policy that teachers can and should be compensated above the minimum salary schedule if they substantially contribute to improvements in student achievement.
“Value-added” is a new term of art being used by policymakers nationwide; yet relatively little is known about it, both because it has not been used widely or long enough to accurately gauge results, and because the few models that exist are not easily obtainable.
Basically, “value-added” is a way to use test scores to gain information about the impact of teaching and the levels of student learning.
The value-added approach purportedly is able to separate student effects (ethnicity, family background, socioeconomic status) from school effects (teachers, administrators, programs) since it examines test scores to determine if students are making anticipated academic gains each year. Measured on the basis of their progress from the previous year, students, in a sense, act as their own statistical control. Value-added programs calculate a projected test score for a student in a given grade or subject based on his/her previous academic achievement. The difference between the actual score and the projected score is the value added.
HB 2 includes value-added provisions in several sections, including those relating to local incentive plans, and the statement of intent that teachers be rewarded for improving student performance.
In addition, HB 2 provides that no later than Sept. 1, 2006, the commissioner must adopt a measure for value-added student performance by tracking changes in a student’s performance from one school year to the next on an assessment instrument. The performance of the student on the assessment instrument would be compared to the student’s results on any assessment instrument for that subject the student took during the previous school year. TEA would maintain a record of the comparison each year, and provide the record to the school the student attends and to each teacher of a student in an assessed subject.
A measure of value-added student performance is added to the indicators upon which school accountability ratings are based.
The incentive provisions in HB 2 are somewhat confusing. The commissioner of education is required to establish an educator excellence incentive program under which districts will develop local plans (approved by the commissioner) to provide incentive payments to employees who “demonstrate superior success in adding value to student achievement.” Districts must use at least 1 percent of their total state and local expenditures (not including bond debt) to provide incentives, which may be in the form of stipends to teachers at high-need campuses, stipends to mentor teachers, or other payments to “further the goals of any other locally designed performance incentive program intended to improve student achievement.”
This does not require individual bonuses based on student achievement, and districts could choose to use a local plan to pay individual teachers or all personnel on a campus (or other combination of employees, such as grade levels or academic departments, which must at least include teachers). However, the local plan must be based on objective measures of student achievement, rewarding either high levels of achievement, growth in achievement, or both. The local plan also can consider other indicators of employee performance, such as evaluations by principals or parents. The comments of classroom teachers must be considered in the development of the local plan.
To summarize, it appears that a district could choose to spend its 1 percent on mentoring and/or high-needs campus stipends, and must develop a local plan based on student performance, but that the district does not necessarily have to implement the local plan and provide performance-based bonuses.
One concern is that a decision by a school board or administrator regarding the provision of a stipend is not appealable, which means that a fairly earned stipend could be denied with no recourse available to the employee.
Another incentive program is based at the state level, designed by the commissioner, and intended to reward growth in student achievement for campuses with at least 50 percent educationally disadvantaged students, an accreditation rating of acceptable or better, and demonstrating superior growth in performance of the schools’ educationally disadvantaged students. Grants would be awarded to campuses meeting the criteria, and at least 75 percent of the grant money must be used for additional teacher compensation at the campus level; the commissioner’s rules would include providing individual rewards of at least $7,500 to each teacher on a campus receiving an award.
Districts paying into Social Security
A new provision was added on the House floor to assist districts that are currently (as of Jan. 1, 2005) contributing to Social Security for some or all of their employees. The new provision would require the state to cover 50 percent of the cost of those contributions.
A provision added on the House floor limits superintendent salaries to no more than four times the salary of the highest paid classroom teacher in the district. It does not restrict nonsalary benefits such as housing or car allowances, expense accounts, etc.
Funding for special education and bilingual programs was increased, but was revised to reflect dollar amounts rather than percentages of funding. Other allotments also were revised to dollar amounts. This means that, rather than increasing naturally as education funding increases, the Legislature will have to specifically adopt new funding amounts each time an increase is needed.