A few readers have complained that it’s been unfair to single out Governor Malloy for his support of “education reform.” Despite the fact that he proposed the most anti-teacher, anti-union proposal of any Democratic governor in the nation, these apologists claim that there are lots of Democrats supporting Michelle Rhee and the corporate reformers.
Well, these Malloy defenders will be happy to hear that a few days ago a small group of Democratic state legislators joined their Republican colleagues in Missouri to pass a ‘reform” package there that includes outlawing the use of seniority when it comes to teacher contracts.
The bill passed by a vote of 83-78 (one vote more than constitutionally required in Missouri).
Democratic Minority Leader Mike Talboy, one of a group of legislators who had recently received campaign contributions directly from StudentsFirst switched sides providing the “reformers” with the votes necessary to pass the bill. Not only are corporate contributions allowed in Missouri, but corporations can give unlimited amounts to political campaigns and can do so during the legislative session.
According to published reports from Missouri, “the bill initially did not have the required constitutional majority of 82 votes, but the voting board was held open for nearly fifteen minutes while House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones and other caucus leaders walked the floor, pressuring representatives to change their votes. Eventually, enough votes were changed to pass the bill by a vote of 83-76, one more than the required majority and the board was closed.” Representative Jones was another one of the legislators to recently receive a campaign contribution from StudentsFirst.
Originally the bill also required that 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation must reflect the standardized test scores of their students. In Missouri, the mandated link between evaluations and standardized test score was removed prior to the final passage of the legislation, whereas in Connecticut, Malloy’s plan now provides for a 10 district pilot program linking evaluations and test scores before the concept is spread statewide.
Considering test scores are linked to many factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as poverty and language barriers, neither the Malloy Administration nor the Republicans in Missouri have been able to articulate how linking evaluations and test scores will work.
For example, is a 5 percent improvement in a low-income district the same as a 1 percent change in a high income district?
Alternatively, if a teacher with 20 students has four special needs students and four students who aren’t proficient in the English language, is a 2 percent improvement in test scores the same as a 2 percent improvement for a teacher with 22 students of which five have special education needs and two face language barriers?
As we know from their work here in Connecticut, the most effective way reformers improve test scores is by removing the lowest performing students from taking the test at all.
When Windham’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, was superintendent of schools in Hartford, he won renown for increasing test scores by 4 to 5 percent. It was only later that researchers discovered that the success in raising test scores was statistically due to the fact he removed 10 percent of Hartford’s lowest performing students from the pool of students who even took the Connecticut Master Tests. You have to give them an A for ingenuity.
Surprisingly, despite a major report on the maneuver published this year by Connecticut Voices for Children, Governor Malloy overlooked the facts when his “education reform” road show stopped in Windham. There, Malloy publicly applauded Adamowski’s track record in getting Hartford test scores up.
Meanwhile, none of these issues seem to bother the corporate “reforms” who continue to “invest” in the blossoming education reform industry.
Here in Connecticut “education reformers” spent over a million dollars in the last three months to support Malloy’s “education reform.” It should come as no surprise that in states like Missouri, where corporations can donate directly to legislators, groups such as StudentsFirst successfully used that strategy, handing out checks in the days immediately leading up to the vote on the reforms they were supporting.