Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

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5 ways education will change if reform bills become law

CARSON CITY — The state Senate passed legislation this week that would dramatically change public schools in Nevada. Assembly Bill 225 and Assembly Bill 229 are the basis for the Legislature’s education reform efforts, which are being pushed by Democratic leadership with the support of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The bills have Democrats at odds with the teachers union, typically their strong ally.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, a co-sponsor of the bills who worked on the legislation for two years, called them “significant reforms.” Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said the bills, as amended Monday night, “are significant changes to how we manage education personnel.”

But Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, called them “union-busting tactics dressed up as education reforms.”

The bills await final approval in the Assembly and a signature from Sandoval. If they gain that approval, here are five changes that teachers, administrators and parents will see:

      Three years to tenure

      Only Nevada and Mississippi have granted post-probationary status — commonly called tenure — to teachers after just one year on the job. The new policy would require teachers to work for three years before becoming eligible for tenure.

      During the boom, Nevada was desperate to recruit teachers. That also meant schools were desperate to retain them. New teachers were on probation for two one-year periods, but administrators could waive the second year after a satisfactory first-year evaluation. And in Clark and Washoe counties, they commonly did. A Las Vegas Sun analysis found 95 percent of teachers hired in the past five years in Clark County received post-probationary status after the first year.

      The teachers union supports the change, which would apply to those hired after July 1.

      Tenured teachers can go back on probation

      Conservatives have complained it’s nearly impossible to fire ineffective teachers, particularly after they’ve received tenure. That has led to poor teachers being shuffled from school to school — a ritual known as “pass the trash” — rather than removed from the classroom.

      The new laws would change that. Teachers and administrators who receive two consecutive years of “below average” evaluations will be put back on probationary status, meaning they would be easier to fire for being ineffective. After one year of “ineffective” or “minimally effective” evaluations, teachers would be given three evaluations the following year.

      The union opposes the measure, because it wanted a third-party appeals process before a teacher is demoted.

      This would be effective on July 1.

      Ending “last in, first out” layoffs

      Each teacher has a number, identifying his seniority in the district. That number has been the standard in determining who gets laid off. But school districts lobbied for the authority to consider more than seniority if layoffs are necessary.

      The new law would require that school district layoffs “must not be based solely on the seniority of the teacher or administrator.” Among the factors that could be considered are performance evaluations, disciplinary records, criminal records and degrees.

      This change would take effect July 1, giving school districts a decision to make. If they moved quickly with layoffs after the Legislature finalizes a budget, likely sometime around June 6, most school districts, including Clark County, would only use seniority as a basis for their decisions.

      Teacher evaluations get some nuance

      The current evaluation system is a binary “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory.” The new policy would require a four-tiered system of evaluations for teachers and administrators beginning in 2013:

      • Highly effective

      • Effective

      • Minimally effective

      • Ineffective

      The evaluation will be based, in part, on standard measures such as classroom observation. But 50 percent will be set by a “Teachers and Leaders” council, which will be appointed by the governor. This is likely to include test scores for many teachers.

      The bill, Assembly Bill 222, that would bring this change is still in play, and in the hands of Smith.

      Laws trump collective bargaining

      This change won’t be readily apparent to parents and teachers, but could have the biggest effect on the state’s education policy. That’s because when it comes to education, some laws take a back seat to unions’ bargains with school districts. Even if lawmakers want to direct policy, a reluctant bargaining unit can block changes.

      Sandoval made elimination of that law as it relates to putting tenured teachers back on probation a negotiating point. The bill supersedes collective bargaining laws.

      Warne worries this could set a precedent: Many of these issues, such as how to lay off teachers, have never been discussed at the bargaining table in most counties, she said.

      But conservatives complain that unions for teachers, administrators and support staff carry too much weight. That, in and of itself, makes broader changes to education policy more difficult.

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    1. This district has had difficulty attracting and regaining teachers in math, science, English and computer tech courses in the past. These so called reform bills will make Nevada even less attractive to all teachers. Blatant killing of seniority and eliminating any tenure will be Pandora's box of both gifts and curses for the district. The so-called 'merit pay reward system' based on total improvement of a school will do nothing to make teaching better or improve learning of students in our school district. Just because the district can now eliminate the older, more expensive salaried teachers does not mean that education is going to improve overnight; far from it, the experience of the older cadre will lost and difficult to replace, if not impossible. No, we will not see higher graduation rates, improvement in state competency exams, fewer drop outs. The latter is also dependent upon the students themselves and their parents or guardians. Teachers alone do not make a school district.

    2. It is time legislatures give classroom teachers full authority to determine their grading standards and other teaching matters like standards for homework assignments, the type and amount of homework, standards for achieving specific grades, attendance, tardiness, behavior,etc. It is time to stop blaming classroom teachers for every conceivable ill in education and make students and their parents much more responsible for the education they are given. Education is not free and it is not a free lunch. With the opportunity for a 'free education' goes responsibility for parent and student-learners. It is time to make education mean something being the source of jokes, demeaning comments and slander from the anti-public education fanatics. Eliminate the trouble makers and those who disrupt, interrupt and refuse to participate cooperatively in learning. Stop coddling those who interfere with true learning in schools. Stop operating schools like they are free day-care centers for the disruptive and disobedient students. Make discipline as important a factor in our schools and competent teachers and graduation exit exams.

    3. Lipstick on a pig...

      I don't see ONE SINGLE THING that will improve Nevada's position relative to hiring & retaining great Educators.

      Well, isn't that the GOAL???
      Um, NO.

      The notion that having "someone", or "some entity" making the decisions on which Teachers to retain in the event of layoffs, as opposed to first in/first out, is rife with potential pitfalls, and is simply a SMOKESCREEN for laying off more expensive teachers who are higher up on the pay scale. If you don't believe that, you don't understand the thought process of B.S. and the anti-tax brigade in the great state of Nevader.

      This whole "reform" push is totally misguided.
      It does NOT address any real, substantive issues pertaining to improving education in the state.
      It's the State's way of getting rid of COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, and out-maneuvering the "unions".
      Does that sound "innovative" to you? Does that sound like a plan that serves Nevada's students? Do these 5 things do ONE SINGLE THING to address the problems plaguing your typical Nevada classroom? Will your kids have better teachers, more instructional time, the best available curriculum, supplies, tech-learning tools, a proper teacher/student ratio, clean, modern classrooms, an OPTIMUM LEARNING EXPERIENCE out of ANY of these "reforms"?

      Well, shouldn't THAT be the GOAL???
      That's NOT what this is about, unfortunately, kids...
      It's all about POWER & CONTROL. The ability to put TeaNut Idear's into practice by people that have ZERO INTEREST in "educational outcomes".

      You have been had; AGAIN.

    4. Three Years to Tenure (Teacher)
      Tenure Teachers Go Back to Probation (Teacher)
      Last In, First Out (Teachers)
      Teacher Evaluation (Teachers)
      Trump Collective Bargaining (Teachers)

      I am sure everyone noticed. The reforms are all centered on teachers. As usual, we get the SHAFT.
      I think it's about time we teachers wake up.

      Education does not ALL happen in school. It begins in the womb - the home, the school is midway, society is the final phase. Yes, if people still don't get it, they never will. IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO EDUCATE A CHILD! Will everybody please digest that.

      The failure of education is caused by the apathy of everyone concerned. Honestly, only the teachers are doing their part. Everyone else, because they didn't do their part, has to blame the only one who is doing it.

      So, the failure of education is caused by the teachers - according to these idiots. Never mind that we do not have influence in policy-making. Never mind that we are not consulted when curriculum is changed. Never mind when we are told to "use these materials and programs with fidelity, or else." Never mind that we are told how to grade children, how to discipline children, or how to teach children. Now they are silencing our voice too.

      I think it is time we use our collective power and tell these idiots ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

      Just you wait Mr. Higgins, just you wait!

    5. There is a great deal said by the previous comments that I wholeheartedly agree and won't repeat here. This Nevada State Legislative Session has been used as a tool by certain individuals to advance their agendas to further prosper already thriving industries in Nevada: eroding and busting unions of the citizens (who are individually, less empowered, but in a union, have some power against the BIG SPECIAL INTERESTS.

      Only the NEVADA LAWMAKERS can change the Nevada Constitution in regards to MINING TAX RESTRUCTURING AND REFORMS.

      I will say it again: By now, it should be obvious, that the majority, if not, all, the folks bothering to comment in the online newspaper media comments are concerned ENGLISH speaking citizens/residents. Those who are 2nd language don't even bother to write, even in their own language or have someone write on their parts, and they now comprise nearly HALF of NEVADA's POPULATION!!!! That should worry YOU!

      In a few years, WHO will be running Nevada?

      REMINDER:Teachers have gone with nearly 4 years of NO cost of living adjustment raises. Now, they are subject to have what they have CUT. These teachers have undergone college, volunteer work, licensing, background checks, job interviews, job evaluations, and more. There are systems in place to deal with these suggested problems of "bad teachers." Where does any of this fit for the hierarchy above teachers, who CONTROL SCHOOL BUDGETS? Where is the transparency, responsibility, and accountability there?

      A local television touched upon a story of the iPODS, and the lack of localized accounting. If citizens took the time to check on the CCSD Interact on "Turnaround Schools" and a specific study posted by an outside source(s) on the "drop-out rates," it is very interesting that some of the problem is due to #1-the district not being able to account for students who moved out of state or who are transient, and #2-students whose parents are immigrants and family are impacted by 2nd language. These two things have ZERO to do with UNIONS, MONEY, OR TEACHERS. Good Grief!

      You can only do so much with what you have. It is time to restrict funding to legal residents and citizens needs. Are the taxpayers charitable organizations for illegal residents?

      It is just plain old scary how our trusted elected officials play political games with the lives of innocent citizens!

    6. Teachers can get a better deal elsewhere. Who wants to live in Las Vegas? Teachers have loans to pay off. Is a decrypted neighborhood with empty homes and weeds where teachers want to buy a home?

    7. These bills don't go far enough but its a good small step forward.

      There is no legitimate reason to have teachers granted tenure after just 1 year. We also need to make it easier to fire bad teachers and easier to hire anyone with a college degree to teach on a trial basis.

      We need to stop protecting adults and start focusing on the students.

      Nancy, bad teachers should get the shaft. Teacher quality is very important.

    8. JTrenchard:

      I agree with you. Bad teachers should be fired. Tell that to the administrators. Passing a law does not make a bad administrator suddenly good.

    9. @nancyb...

      "Well all I can say is if you don't like it leave, no one will miss you."

      Thank you, Nancy; I think we will.

    10. gmag.

      I hope you weren't quoting me. I didn't say anything like that. Look back please. I don't see any other Nancy here.

    11. Oh sorry, there is another one. I am NancyA and there's a Nancyb. Ha ha, ha. I am at the opposite side of what she believes. She probably doesn't know anything about how the schools operate.

      Forgive them for they do not know what they are saying.

    12. Nancy A...
      You are a sweetheart.
      I am sure "nancyb" is one of our regular posters who is too chicken s$#t to post his/her trash under their usual screen names.
      You want to know a couple more?
      roseannrose & nevadaappleslices.
      They're both people who comment here regularly under different screen names. There are SEVERAL MORE.
      How sad & pathetic is that?

    13. It is amazing how some people's mind works.

      There's a problem in education. The major problem involves people. So, if we legislate how people should behave, does it make these people change who they are? Did the law ever stop criminals?

      CCSD has existing policies and regulations. We have an evaluation system: 4 means excellent, 3, means above average, 2 means needs improvement, and 1 means bad. Yet, the system is not able to fire teachers/administrators who need to be fired. So changing it to "Highly Effective," "Effective," "Minimally Effective," and "Ineffective," would suddenly change things? Come on people - is there anyone with any brains up there in Carson City?

      These so called reforms make my blood curdle. It is so stupid, it makes me scared that these people are actually running our lives, managing billions of dollars, and making decisions for which they do not have the cognitive ability to do. It is incredible!

      You have cancer and you are treating it with bandaid!

    14. iluvtoteach:

      Great letter. I am going to make copies of it and include it in the welcome packet I am preparing to send to teachers in August.

      That should really make a good year of suddenly inefficient teachers becoming efficient, considering how magnanimous these actions are.

      Hurray to the people of Nevada. You really do yourselves proud to be the dumbest state in the nation. At least we have a category where we are first.

    15. The real work towards reform has YET to be done.

      Nevada LAWMAKERS must continue this session until June 6th, working:
      Make steps in sweeping MINING TAX RESTRUCTURING AND REFORMS, so that our Nevada State Budget will see an appropriate revenue (at least they should be paying an average/at the very least, the amount assessed in the other 49 USA states). MINING has been routinely avoided for over 100 years, while they haul out precious minerals from our state for a pittance! This MUST STOP.

      If MINING paid their fair share a long ago, Nevadan would not be suffering cuts and a starving budget now. Come on LAWMAKERS, time to make a real difference in Nevada and the quality of lives for its people.

      Realize that education, throughout the USA is suffering due to No Child Left Behind: it leaves children behind, and is not relevant in a currently immigrant flooded country. It did NOT have the foresight of this problem, and therefore does not effectively address it. One of the recent studies the school district has posted by an outside university, cites that #1-the high drop-out problems has to do with the very way the school district accounts for high school students either moving out of state, out of county, out of school is causing the negative posting of numbers, when in fact, the truth is different. The #2 issue of drop-out have to do with children of immigrant/non-English speaking families.

      If we want to IMPROVE EDUCATION, doesn't it make sense to #1- make student accounting more efficient and widespread, and #2-address the status of immigrants and address language acquisition for the entire family for success of their children.

      If we had to focus, throw money, use energy, well, let's make it count. There has been so much finger pointing, hating, politics, can't we just deal with the problems towards solutions?

      We all want peace. We all want happiness. We all want to see what's right done. Just 5 more days for our LAWMAKERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Let's keep reminding them and being supportive. Thanks fellow citizens!

    16. Star:

      I am glad you are still hopeful. Not this time though. Let's not hold our breath. The good thing about our country is another election is always not too far off. We'll just hope to have good candidates next time.