The VEA has sent out a flyer asking teachers to wear black on Friday Feb 17 2012 to protest what they claim is a “lack of commitment to public education and loss of respect accorded teachers by our elected officials.” (see 2012BlackFridayFlyer).
So what terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad things has the VA General Assembly done to cause this uproar?
Several things, actually.
(1) The House has passed HB 576 “relating to public schools; teacher contract and evaluation policies.” The bill has been read on the Senate floor and is currently hanging out in the Senate Education Sub-Committee awaiting debate.
What does this bill do?
Changes for Principals and Assistant Principals.
Increased their probationary period from 3 to 5 years, except for Principals who were previously teachers. For Principals who were previously teachers the probationary period will be 3 years.
Principals and Assistant Principals outside their probationary period have to be formally evaluated at least once every three years and informally in the years they don’t receive a formal evaluation.
Changes for Teachers
There are quite a few changes for teachers. The biggest deal with the contract period and performance evaluations.
Teachers are lumped into two very board categories – those who are outside their probationary period and are on what’s called a continuing contract and those who are still in their probationary period. Under current law teachers outside their probationary period have to be evaluated at least once every 3 years and have to be reevaluated the next year if they receive a bad evaluation. As their contract is continuing, the performance evaluation is not part of the contract renewal. Teachers in continuing contracts can only be fired for just cause.
Under the proposed law, contracts for teachers outside their probationary period are called term contracts and will last 3 years in duration. These teachers will still be evaluated every 3 years, but the evaluation must be written. If they get a bad evaluation they will receive a written (formal) evaluation the following year. They will also receive an informal evaluation in the years they are not formally evaluated. They can only be fired for just cause, but two consecutive bad formal evaluations are considered just cause. Teachers can not be dismissed because the school division failed to negotiate a new contract at the end of the 3 year term.
The factors that are part of the teacher evaluation remain unchanged and include: “student academic progress and the skills and knowledge of instructional personnel, including, but not limited to, instructional methodology, classroom management, and subject matter knowledge.”
The standard school year is currently 180 instructional days (990 hours). The new school year will be 200 contract days, of which 180 days (990 hours) must be instructional.
The probationary period for teachers will be 5 years. Teachers who have already completed their probationary period in a school division in Virginia and move to another school division in Virginia may have to complete another 5 year probationary period.
There are several other changes which include:
Local School Boards can no longer issue three year eligibility licenses (licenses to teacher candidates) and teacher’s holding eligibility licenses can not be hired to work as teachers.
Reductions in Force, “If a school board implements a reduction in workforce pursuant to this section, such reduction shall not be made solely on the basis of seniority, but must include consideration of, among other things, the performance evaluations of the teachers potentially affected by the reduction in workforce.”
Defines a teacher as, “A. As used in this title, “teacher” means a person who (i) is regularly employed as a classroom teacher, guidance counselor, or library-media specialist/librarian and (ii) holds a valid teaching license. ”
(2) Passed HB 1173 governing Charter Schools.
Under these changes Charter School applicants will be allowed to appeal local school board rejections of their application to the VA BOE. The BOE will not have the authority to over-turn the rejection, but the local school district must provide a written justification for their rejection. Approved Chart School applicants will be able to lease unused school division property for their uses and will be required to receive at least 90% of the state and local cost per pupil from the local school division for each student that enrolls.
(3) Passed HB 603 which will allow parents to enroll their child in any school in the division / district, not just their local school.
These are the bills that affect our teachers the most and are most likely to cause VEA some degree of consternation. I’m not sure they indicate a lack of commitment to public education or a loss of respect of teachers by elected officials, but our teachers will certainly feel the effects of these bills. I’m not sure how this 3-year term contract thing will work. What if you achieve term contract status in the middle of a term? Do you just jump into that term or do you get your own term? I do kind of like that Principals will have to be evaluated every three years, and I’d hope an anonymous teacher and parent survey would be part of that evaluation.
The General Assembly passed a lot more bills regarding public education, like allowing the school year to start before labor day, allowing new employees to opt out of VRS, delaying High Accreditation requirements, changing graduation requirements, allowing students to dual enroll in a community college while working towards a standard or advanced diploma, eliminating the HPV vaccine requirement, and allowing schools to keep a supply of epinephrine on hand in case a child has a life threatening allergic reaction. You can find each of those bills in the General Assembly list service.