It’s that special time of year again. While some of us are sound asleep, things are being packaged and wrapped up neatly with a bow for us. But during this season of giving, what if the surprise package that awaits is unwanted or is not beneficial for us?
As someone who works to empower everyday Delawareans to make their voices heard in the education system, this is exactly the question I recently reflected upon when I learned of the Delaware teachers’ union’s (DSEA) holiday-time sprint to package legislation that weakens the importance of student growth in teacher’s evaluations in Delaware.
The potential legislation would eliminate the small percentage of Math and English teachers’ evaluations (approximately 10%) that are based on how well their students grow on the state assessment compared to students at a similar academic level.
Specifically, in one of the drafts that they’re circulating around, the teachers’ union wants to make it such that
“the grades three through eight English language arts and mathematics state assessments and all other state-created or administered tests shall not be required to be utilized in any manner to determine a teacher or principal evaluation.”
To put this in context, on the measure that the union is seeking to eliminate, 56 percent of Delaware teachers received the highest two ratings in 2018-19. On the other measures of a teachers’ performance—those based on a principal’s observation of a teacher—99 percent of teachers get satisfactory ratings.
Even though nearly all of Delaware’s more than 10,000 teachers receive evaluations that say they’re “effective” or “highly effective,” DSEA is currently rallying the support of the administrators, superintendents, and legislators to stamp out true accountability for learning.
Because they know they can.
In 2016, DSEA took their first swipe at the “Student Improvement Component” of teachers’ evaluations as they pushed through legislation that made all five components of teachers’ evaluations equally weighted. This meant that it was now possible to be rated “effective” even if your kids are not learning.
Weakening accountability, transparency and a focus on students’ growth seem like the last thing our state leaders should want to do given the status of Delaware’s education system.
41 percent of the graduates of Delaware’s public schools who attend Delaware colleges need to take remedial courses in Math or English.
Fewer than 4 out of 10 black students in Delaware are proficient in reading and fewer than 3 out of 10 are proficient in math according to Delaware’s state assessment.
Both of those numbers are about 30 points lower than the rates for white students in our state.
If students are our priority, we should want high-quality and consistent measures that indicate which educators are able to achieve above-average learning improvements with a diverse set of students and which educators need support in this area.
This should not be about job security. It should be about recognizing and rewarding excellence. It should be about supporting our teachers who need it, not ignoring their development at the cost of students’ futures.
But if we are being honest, the wants of students and their families are left far at the back of the line at this time of the year.
Instead, powerful interest groups shop their wish lists around behind closed doors and by the time legislative session begins in January they aim to speed down the express lane.
It’s a bad deal but everyone else just needs to hope what comes down the chimney isn’t a lump of coal.
Unless we opt to open the gift of our collective voice.