By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, March 1, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) finally introduced his long discussed Tenure Reform Bill. Earlier versions of the bill were called the RAISE Act. This actually introduced bill is being called the PREP Act, Senate Bill 316.
The Senate Education Policy Committee will address the bill, SB316 today, March 8, at their meeting at 12:30 pm in room 304.
Sen. Marsh said last week, “Today I introduced the Preparing and Rewarding Education Professionals Act. This legislation is designed to show a commitment to the education professionals in Alabama as well as reform a broken tenure system. In addition, it provides funding for a teacher mentoring reward program and gives extra money for teachers who choose to teach in rural schools or schools deemed to be failing by the State Board of Education.”
According to the Alabama Senate Republicans Caucus, in its current form, the PREP Act would reform the process for observing and evaluating K-12 teachers and principals based on their performance and the achievement growth of their students. The evaluation process would include a variety of student surveys, two classroom observations and student achievement growth. The amount each criteria counts toward the final evaluation will largely be left up to local school districts, however a minimum of 25% must include student achievement growth.”
Teachers would be rated on a one to five scale based on their levels of effectiveness: Significantly exceeds expectations, Exceeds expectations, Satisfies expectations, Below expectations and Significantly below expectations.
The PREP Act will provide extra money for teachers who choose to teach in rural schools or schools deemed to be failing by the State Board of Education. The PREP Act would also set aside money to be used for a teacher mentoring program, and create a committee of classroom teachers to advise legislators on the best way to implement future changes to this legislation.
Under the PREP Act, teachers would attain tenure after five years however if two consecutive evaluations of below expectations or significantly below expectations are given, a decision will be made on necessary actions which may include mandatory professional development or loss of tenure.
Marsh said that this legislation is necessary after a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) gave Alabama a score of D+ in their evaluation of Alabama’s preparing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also recently ranked Alabama in the bottom quarter of all states in 4th and 8th grade reading and math.
Many critics of the Alabama public schools blame the controversial adoption of the Common Core aligned experimental Alabama College and Career Ready Standards for the plunging of test scores after years of improving performance.
Sen. Marsh said, “This bill shows a commitment to the education professionals in Alabama. Over the past year we have worked with anyone who would be impacted by this bill, including classroom teachers themselves, and I believe this piece of legislation reflects input from all those involved.” “Since 2013, this legislature has been reform minded when it comes to education policy. As a state we have made progress, but obviously there is still work to be done to ensure that our children receive the world class education that will give them an advantage in the increasingly competitive and globally based job market.”
Critics of the legislation argue that making it easier for administrators to replace teachers will only encourage more of them to leave the profession and discourage college students from seriously considering the profession in the first place.
Critics argue that it is unfair to evaluate teachers effectiveness while the state continues to use the Common Core standards which have failed to generate the promised improvements in performance. SB60, sponsored by Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) would repeal the unpopular College and Career Ready Standards is awaiting action by the full Senate. That legislation is however opposed by powerful business interests led by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).