UPDATE: April 24th, 2013: A Pivotal Day for Louisiana Education
HB 343: SPED Exemption from ACT; No Penalty to Schools for Opt-out Students on ACT
HB 613: Parental Opt-out of ACT
From the Baton Rouge Advocate:
A bill that would lift the state rule that high school special education students take the ACT and other tests passed the House Education Committee on a 14-1 vote Tuesday [April 30, 2013].
The measure, House Bill 343, next faces action on the House floor.
The legislation would apply to students with individualized education plans who are not pursuing a high school diploma. Those students typically aim for a certificate of attendance or other recognition.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, sponsor of HB343, said giving the ACT — a test of college readiness — and other exams to special education students “does not capture anything that is meaningful or relevant.”
Edwards said teachers have told him that forcing students to take the test has made for a “horrible situation” and that some parents believe the requirement amounts to abuse.
The legislation also would ban the state from penalizing schools in annual, state-issued school performance scores and letter grades for students not taking the test.
Under current rules, students who do not take the ACT get a zero on the test, which is factored in to the school’s annual letter grade.
Joan Hunt, executive counsel for the state Department of Education, told the committee that the federal government requires “consequences” for schools where students do not take the ACT and other assessments aimed at improving student performance.
Edwards said the state could seek a waiver from federal officials.
“It doesn’t have to be a zero,” he said. “It has to be a consequence.”
Under a new state grading policy, ACT results will count for 25 percent of a high school’s annual performance score starting in the fall.
A separate bill approved by the committee last week would block that change.
How many students would be covered by Edwards’ bill is unclear.
Erin Bendily, assistant superintendent of education, said students who are not pursuing a high school diploma amount to about 2 percent of a category of students who qualify for modest assistance on standardized tests.
Backers of the measure said there is a clear correlation between the state’s Top 50 public schools, with small percentages of special education students, and the lowest-scoring 50 schools, where special education students make up 20 or 30 percent of enrollment or more.
The committee approved another measure, House Bill 613, that is similar to the Edwards bill. But it requires parents to take action to have their child exempted from tests.
The Edwards bill would only require that special education students take the exam if their IEP recommends it or the parents request it.
“This is an opt in instead of opt out,” Edwards said.
This in from LFT:
Reverse parent trigger bill advances
A bill that would allow parents of failing Recovery District Schools to petition for return to the local school district won the approval of the House Education Committee.
Under current law, schools that are rated as failures for several years can be taken over by the state Recovery School District. However, a number of schools that were seized by the state have continued to show no improvement, and many parents want a way to return control of the school by the local school system.
HB 115 by Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) would allow parents of a majority of the school’s students to sign petitions returning their school to local control if that school has been graded “D” or “F” for three consecutive years under management of the RSD.
The bill, which is part of LFT’s legislative agenda, will move to the House floor for a vote.
Wednesday, April 24, was a very good day for Louisiana teachers in the House Education Committee. Jindal’s three proposed bills (see original post) were shevled by the committee. It is possible that they could be revived, but the fact that the committee did not push them through quickly is evidence that the Jindal honeymoon is over for certain Republicans. (Compare this action to last year when the committee acted speedily as one to please Jindal.)
Two other notable developments: HB 466 (described below) made it out of committee by a vote of 9 to 6 on Tuesday. This means that White and his predominately “yes man” BESE will have to go through the legislature before enacting school letter grade changes. The legislature wants a consistent school letter grading system, not one that is whimsical and sytematically lowers school letter grades.
Consider this nonsense that White said in order to try to convince the Committee to let him have control without their say:
White noted parents can choose to have their child opt out of the ACT test and that their “zero” score would be balanced out by those who score higher. He added that predictions show around 200 schools will see their letter grades rise and 200 will see them fall, “so you’re going to see parity against last year,” White said. [Emphasis added.]
First of all, taking a “zero” for one’s ACT score is anything but “opting out.” And the foolishness that “It’s okay to take a zero because other students who score higher will ‘balance it ‘out'” reminds me of my speaking at the October 2012 BESE meeting about the purpose of taking the ACT as a measure of college readiness and how having all students take the test inherently alters the purpose (and the usefulness) of the ACT.
White responded to the effect that ACT will “adjust the test.” Again, a nonsense answer. If the ACT is “adjusted” to meet a new purpose (grading teachers and schools), then the ACT is no longer tied to its original purpose: To determine college readiness for those who plan to attend college.
A final bit of good news for teachers is that the Committee also moved forward on HB 160. As the LFT Legislative Update notes:
[The Committee] compromised on HB 160 by Rep. Gene Reynolds (D-Minden). If the bill makes it all the way through the process, it will mean that the results of the teacher evaluation plan cannot be used in disciplinary or termination proceedings for another year. [Emphasis added.]
In short, passage of HB 160 would nullify COMPASS evaluations this school year.
This is all very good news.
I will continue to provide legislative updates as the session proceeds.
The 2012 Louisiana legislative session yielded two unprecedented anti-teacher, pro-privatization laws, the mammoth Act 1 (Teacher Evaluation and Tenure; Role of School Boards, among other changes) and Act 2 (Vouchers). Fortunately, canning both teachers and schools is not proceeding as smoothly as both Governor Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White would have liked. Both Acts 1 and 2 are currently under appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court. Both were declared unconstitutional in the lower courts; Act 1, for including “more than one object,” and Act 2, for using MFP (minimum Foundation Program) funding to support schools and programs not considered “public schools.”
Act 2 has been heard in court; no judgment has been issued.
Act 1 is under appeal to the Supreme Court but has not yet been heard.
Until the Supreme Court issues its judgments on these two bills, both are in force.
As to education bills proposed for this legislative session, I received information regarding a number of these bills in an email from fellow Louisiana education blogger Mike Deshotels, who blogs at louisianaeducator.blogspot.com. Most of the proposed bills mentioned below involve the division of or modification of Act 1. Some are for better; some are not.
Some bills below concern Act 2. As to Act 2, John White is attempting to skirt the law by paying state money to the districts (John White says that this fulfills the Louisiana constitutional requirement that the state pay the money to the public school districts), then having the districts pay for voucher students. White has promised that the districts will benefit by receiving “leftover” MFP (kickback?). However, not only is this practice is shady; districts often end up losing more money to voucher students than initially thought.
John White has been in the hot seat for his attempts to modify MFP in order to accomodate his and Jindal’s vouchers.
But back to the current legislative session. Mike Deshotels details where Louisiana is right now concerning education legislation to be considered Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Here is his summary and his call to Louisiana voters to take action:
Next Wednesday could be the most important day of the [Louisiana] legislative session for both School Board rights and teacher concerns. I really need all of you to help in contacting the members of the House Education Committee on several bills that are scheduled.(click on the highlighted underlined section to see the members and to have access to their email)
First I want to tell you what happened this week with HB 160 which would delay the implementation of the new Act 54 evaluation plan by one year and would force the VAM part of it to be carefully reviewed by the legislature.
The author Gene Reynolds realized that the substitute bill that was recommended by the DOE would have gutted his bill so he is planning to go with it in its original form as we urged him to. Thank you for your contacts to legislators on this. It will be the second bill on the agenda next week and with this stacked committee it will be hard to pass, but I hope none of you let up on your contacts asking the members of the committee to pass the bill as recommended by Rep. Reynolds. Believe me the VAM is not ready for prime time.
The following bills are very bad for teachers and one is bad for school boards. I hope you will ask them to defeat the following bills which will mandate most of the legislation passed by Jindal as part of Act 1, last year. These were all ruled unconstitutional by district court because the legislature is only allowed to have one subject in a bill. So now by putting these issues in different bills, they may succeed in making these new laws constitutional. Here they are:
HB 478 by Champagne takes away all teacher seniority in the event of a layoff and ranks teachers according to the new Act 54 evaluation and the VAM. This bill could destroy the careers of some experienced teachers who have previously been evaluated to be effective under the old system. VAM is not reliable!
HB 596 by Carter removes all school board powers relative to hiring and dismissal of employees. In addition to limiting the powers of elected board members this bill removes the right of a teacher to have numerous personnel matters reviewed by their boards. A teacher could be involuntarily transferred to the “boonies” and would have no recourse over this and many other personnel matters.
HB 644 by Whitney establishes merit pay based on the Act 54 evaluation as part of state law. I would not want to have my salary dependent on this erratic system from year to year. It would also freeze the salaries of any teachers who have the bad luck to be rated just one time as ineffective by the VAM.
There are three more bills on the agenda that should be supported by educators and school boards:(Please ask legislators to vote “yes” on these).
HB 115 by James allows parent petitions to require some of the failing schools in the RSD to be restored to their local school boards. This is the reverse trigger legislation. What a great idea!
HB 230 by Pope corrects the problem of kindergarten children in satisfactory school zones being subject to vouchers. This is a loophole that needs to be closed.
HB 466 by Havard keeps the same school grading system that was in effect in the 2011-2012 school year. Many school systems have calculated that White’s new formula could lower some schools’ letter grades by one or two letter grades this year even if the school performs exactly the same as last year.
Remember if you need to read the bill, just click on the bill number and you will be taken to the bill text.
Please contact any or all members of the House Education committee on any or all of these issues that you have strong concerns about. Click on this link to see the Committee members then click on each name to see their email on their web page.
This post is both a call to action for Louisiana voters and an informative update for educators in other states, many of whom are facing the same anti-public-sector push to privatize.
Let us continue to fight back. We simply must.