Professional Educators

Attacks Don’t Silence Educator Voices of Reform Either

Portland, OR teachers and the school board have agreed to a new contract, fresh evidence that educators and districts across the country are pushing forward on collaborative reforms, despite political attacks and a difficult economy. The work of the Portland Association of Teachers and legislation supported by the Arkansas Education Association just this week stands in contrast to the so-called nuclear option exercised by Republican pols in Madison, WI Wednesday night and today that appeared to advance Gov. Walker’s union-stripping plan close to law.

While political opponents continue attacks on the rights of working men and women in some states, elsewhere the story is one of success for agreement-based approaches to advance education reform and budget savings. In the Portland contract, teachers agreed to small pay increases, additional workloads and adoption of a new evaluation system next year. PAT President Rebecca Levison told Oregon Public Broadcasting the new system is being piloted this year at a Priority School in Portland – Roosevelt High School – as part of its federal School Improvement Grant, “led by the teachers with the help of the union and also the leaders in the building…so we’re utilizing what they’re working on this year to inform what we’re going to do next year.”

A one-year piloting of a proposed evaluation system is a key feature of the Arkansas legislation that won AEA’s support this week. The legislation ‘evolved’ with hard work by AEA from an original mandate that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based upon student test scores, Instead, the key features of the new bill include what AEA called “a statewide uniform system of teacher evaluation (beginning in the 2014-15 school year) that emphasizes quality assurance and teacher growth”…. a framework for evaluating that “contains 4 domains, or categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities” and recognition that “student learning is the foundation of teacher effectiveness” and “evidence of student learning should not be limited to a single assessment.”

So much for the conventional wisdom that unions stand in the way of ed reform and fair-share sacrifice. This week we see negotiated agreements and legislative approaches to meet the needs of student achievement, educator professionalism and budget constraints. And teacher evaluations based on multiple measures and pilots. Reform based on research? With a nod to our pals in Wisconsin, you betcha!

Speaking of research this week, check out the study released today by the Center for American Progress. Here’s the gist: “Public-sector pay is not the cause of state budget deficits because public-sector compensation did not significantly increase in recent years.”

Steve Snider

View more articles in: Arkansas, Oregon, Professional Educators, or Wisconsin

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