Monday, February 13, 2006

Wow! I could have had an E-comp! 

Remember Q-Comp? That was the plan the state legislature gave us for improving teacher performance in Minnesota. Craig Westover has covered this issue in depth. Q-Comp allows school districts to define for themselves what constitutes professioinal development of teachers, and Craig reported last December that there were some real doozies in the definition:
Some districts went as high as 80 percent teacher evaluation with only 10 percent of performance pay based on standardized testing. One plan identified 73 individual criteria of teacher performance. "Safety and Arrangement of Furniture" in the classroom and the teacher's handwriting carried the same weight as "Knowledge of Content."
Craig credits the Minnesota Department of Education for trying to revise the more egregious plans from the districts, but the language of the enabling legislation permits too much latitude nevertheless because negotiation is between district and state, not district and parents.

Last week, Florida's Department of Education revealed a new plan called E-Comp. It is quite simple, according to the AP's definition:
The top 10 percent of elementary, middle and high school teachers across Florida, as determined by gains their students have made on FCAT reading and math tests, would receive 5 percent bonuses.
Of course, it's not quite as simple as the AP wants you to think. What the Department's site says is that if you teach reading and math or something else tested in a standardized format, that's how you are assessed. If you teach art, however, what is required is some form of external assessment. FDE has a chart comparing E-Comp and Q-Comp, along with the plans in Denver and Houston.

So, as long as gain on FCAT scores are what parents would seek from teachers -- Craig's objection to Q-Comp should be met in E-Comp. I'll be interested in seeing whether he agrees.

Unsurprisingly, the teacher monolith has launched an attack on the plan, as the AP story describes. The AP previously ran a story using a poll of high school principals to attack the use of FCAT scores. Well, of course they do! What does the use of external assessment do to the power of principals vis-a-vis teachers and parents? And in the later AP story we find this nugget:
The Florida Education Association quickly filed an administrative challenge arguing that state law does not permit such a plan and denouncing it as an arbitrary, vague and incomplete way to determine which teachers are the best.

...The Florida School Boards Association will urge that approval be delayed so state officials can try to work out problems with teachers, local officials and others, said Wayne Blanton, the association's executive director.

"Logistically, this thing's a nightmare," Blanton said.

He said he told Winn it would also be a public relations disaster to run approximately 180,000 teachers through a state ranking system, noting 23 districts currently would not have a single teacher qualify for the statewide part of the pay plan.

Note that the plan doesn't take score levels, but score gains, so those districts with students that are at lower educational levels generally would not have to get students to the same levels as districts with academically more advanced students. Maybe they are hoping to get the exam curved?

The connection between the Florida and Minnesota plans, in case you haven't figured it out yet, is quite obvious. This could have been Minnesota's plan. Ask your legislator, why isn't it? Make it part of your caucus' platform proposals.