A critique of SB6696

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Some Problems with RttT/SB6696:


Compilation of material from letters written to legislators, urging them to vote against SB6696:


This legislation is being rushed through so that the state has a chance to win at most $250 million in the "Race to the Top" competition. 

The potential winnings can't be used to make up for budget defict - has to be seed money for reform program, incurs an future budget obligation for the state, as the state has to committ to sustaining the new program in future years.


250 million dollars is a trivial amount of money in comparision to the profundity and far reaching impacts of the legislation that is needed for our State to even have any chance of winning a portion of this amount, and in comparisions to the state's budget (some $20 Billin for 2010),   It is most proper to compare this $250 million to decades of state spending, since the legilislation will affect our state for decades to come.


We need the right reforms. The reforms in SB6696/HB3038 are profound, mostly controversial and unproven, and in some cases, discredited. Even if our state was guaranteed to receive $250M by passing SB6696 or HB3038, would this amount of money - expecially given the strings attached (see #1) justify passing laws of dubious merit?


SB6696 calls for use of results from annually administrated state standardized tests for high stakes purposes.  This is called High Stakes Testing.  The valid uses of standardized tests are quite limited. To use annually administered standardized tests as the sole or primary basis for making important decisions about individual teachers, students, or schools is a misuse of standardized testing, leads to score inflation, and invalidates the testing intrument as a measure of genuine student academic progress.


SB6696 calls for adopting CCSS sight unseen


SB6696/HB3038, if passed, will require the application of three of the four federal models of school restructuring


SB6606 calls for merit pay.  Merit pay experiments have failed miserably when judged by effect on the NAEP.  Merit pay has never contributed to any score gain on the NAEP.

SB6696 promotes and subsidizes of a private teacher training industry. This will contribute to deprofessionalizing of the teaching profession.


What would constructive education reform look like?

1. Appropriate, valid use of standardized tests

2. Methods that result in geniune gains on the NAEP

3. Humane, well-researched, constructive models of school intervention and restructuring

4. Moving away from teaching to the test;



On Feb 12, 2010, at 5:54 PM, Joan Sias wrote [addressed to School Board member Sherry Carr]


I have become aware of three major issues that concern me about the RttT-related legislative bills.


1. Common Core State Standards (CCSS, SB 6696 Sec. 501).  Due to the word "shall" in line 32 of SB6696 Part V, Section 501  seems to REQUIRES our SPI to adopt common core state standards (ccss, i.e. national standards). [HB3038 with "MAY" instead of "SHALL" appears dead.] The CCSS are not yet finalized.  OSPI has reviewed the Jan 13 draft of CCSS, but the draft standards have not yet been released to the public.


1a. It makes no sense to agree to a unknown set of rules!  Is this not insanity?  No amount of winnings form RttT can justify such insanity. CCSS takes away nearly all local and state control over standards. This enormous flaw in SB6696 can be corrected by replacing the word "shall" with the phrase "may, with reasonable justification."


1b. If passed, this bill will repeal the present WA Math standards.  In my opinion this is unfortunate; the new standards are much improved over the old standards; children that attend schools that teach to the new standards in math will be much more like to be readywell-prepared for a geniune algebra class in ninth grade.


1c. We worry that the CCSS will entail narrowing of curriculum in all subjects. This is  not good for students. 


2. High StakesTesting.   The National Academy of Sciences panel BOTA makes clear that to use standardized tests in a high stakes testing regime is a misuse of standardized tests.  Standardized tests can be very helpful, but should not be used as the basis for making important decisions about individual students, teachers, and about schools. 


Standardized test scores alone are not a genuine measure of achievement. Genuine measures of achievment are multi-faceted., and include accordeing to mutliple measures, including on-time graduation rates, college entrance rates, evaluations of samples of student work,


These are examples of high stakes testing:


a) Using student standardized test score as the sole or primary basis for deciding whether a student is promoted to the next grade level

b) Using student standardized test score as the sole or primary basis for deciding whether a student gets high school course credit

c) Using a student standardized test score as the sole or primary basis for deciding whether a student graduates from high school

d) Use of student scores on standardized tests as the sole or primary basis for decisions about teacher  pay raises, merit pay, transfers (to different buildings), and job-termination

e) Use of multi-year aggregate student scores on standardized tests to determine whether a school is to become a target of restructuring


3. Federal Models of School Restructuring.RTT has defined four restructuring models. These are, in order of increasing socioacademic disruption, transformation (replace principal and at least half of staff) , turnaround (replace principal and all of staff), conversion to charter school, and building closure (students are dispersed to other buildings or pre-existing charter schools).  SB6696/HB3038 call for the state to target 5% of schools every year for restructuring, using one of these four federal models (of course, at this time, conversion to charter school is not a model that could be invoked in this state). The bills call for targetting Title I schools first and, later, non-title I schools.  After five years, a full 25% of all public schools in the state will have been targetted for restructuring.    


Comment: I favor restructuring of "failed" schools.  Restructuring in itself is not bad. The problem is that the models that are described in RTT (and in SB6696/HB3038) are not proven through research to be best practices, and to be beneficial to affected students. In fact, I have read of many empirical stories of restructuring, and my impression is that these restructurings are rarely constructive. I want the RIGHT models for restructuring. More research is needed to determine what are the best restructuring models.  A good restrucuting model has a high probability of genuinely raising achievement of all students, and especially low-income and minority students, without narrowed currculum and teaching to the test.  Thus, I would favor an ammendment that calls for an ad hoc committee to investigate what are genuine best practices in school turnaround, and calls for the state to use the identified best practice turnaround model.  We will loose points on the RTT application, but maximizing RTT points should be the lowest priority. The highest priority should be having education reform legislation that will bring the RIGHT reform, rather than RTT money. 


I would prefer that the Districts try to help schools avoid failure in the first place. I suspect that the school-wide Title I programs, which are oriented toward raising standardized test scores, and which promote teaching to the test and narrowed curriculum (judging from Federal requirements for Title I school wide programs) are not the most effective means for helping a school to avoid "failure" as defined by NCLB, and is not the most beneficial use of Title I monies go.  The most beneficial use of Title I money is a use that leads to the greatest number of at-risk students having authentic academic success, and being well-prepared for life after graduation, whether or not that includes college or community college.  I suspect that Title I funds would have better efficacy for raising the authentic achievement of low-income and minority studnets if they were used for Targetted Assistance programs instead of school-wide programs.