[Vision2020] Ed Reform Done the Right Way

Sue Hovey suehovey at moscow.com
Sun Jun 19 00:22:02 PDT 2011

And that could have been so exciting had it happened here.  Just think, 
Albertson's could have been a force for good, and Vandersloot no force at 

Thanks, Nick.

Sue H.

-----Original Message----- 
From: nickgier at roadrunner.com
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 10:04 AM
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Subject: [Vision2020] Ed Reform Done the Right Way

Good Morning Visionaries:

What a contrast with how Luna went about it!  All the stakeholders got 
together and produced the most creative ed reform bills in the nation.  A 
key provision is that school teachers earn tenure in the same way that 
college profs do.

Nick Gier, President, Idaho Federation of Teachers, AFT/AFL-CIO

Illinois: The New Leader in Education Reform
Education Week, Friday, June 17, 2011,

By John Luczak (Joyce (Education) Foundation), Dan Montgomery (AFT), Darren 
Reisberg (State School Board), and Ken Swanson (NEA)

Earlier this week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed what might be the boldest 
and most important piece of education legislation ever passed in the state. 
For the first time anywhere, a state's key teachers' unions helped draft 
dramatic changes in how teachers earn tenure, how layoff decisions are made, 
when teachers can be dismissed for poor performance, and what's necessary 
for them to strike. The bill drew tremendous bipartisan support; it passed 
59-0 in the Senate and 112-1 in the House.

Over the past few months, we, the authors, have been asked the same 
questions countless times. First, how did a state like Illinois, which was 
not known for being in the forefront of educational change, pass this law? 
And second, if there was so much agreement, is that a signal that the bill 
lacks transformative power?

Senate Bill 7, or SB 7, passed because of a broad consensus in Illinois that 
it is time to do something different. Stakeholders of all persuasions have 
been engaged in dialogue for several years about what it would take for our 
state to become a national leader in education. The final legislation does 
not represent the victory of one set of interests over another. It is a 
collective blueprint for ensuring that Illinois has among the highest 
standards for classroom instruction in the country, with accountability for 
all. At a time when many teachers understandably feel under attack, this 
bill celebrates effective teachers, recognizes their accomplishments, and 
helps keep them in classrooms.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the presidents of both national 
teachers' unions, Dennis Van Roekel of the National Education Association 
and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, have issued 
public statements of support, praising both the process and the content of 
the legislation. Duncan has addressed how Illinois has steadily built 
consensus among the state's key stakeholders toward meaningful change. He 
issued a statement after the bill passed the legislature saying: "Illinois 
has done something truly remarkable and every state committed to education 
reform should take notice. ... For some time now I have been saying that 
tough-minded collaboration is more productive than confrontation, and this 
is the proof."

Our ability to cooperate is a result of our near-constant dialogue. 
Representatives of labor unions, the state school board, major urban 
districts, and nonprofit organizations worked closely on both rounds of the 
state's Race to the Top applications last year. With the help of elected 
leaders and the Illinois State Board of Education, the state passed five 
education laws in a 15-month span during 2009-10, addressing significant 
issues, including strengthening principal-preparation programs, expanding 
the charter school cap, and modernizing teacher and principal evaluations. 
Importantly, all those laws were also built in a bipartisan, collaborative 
"At a time when many teachers understandably feel under attack, this bill 
celebrates effective teachers, recognizes their accomplishments, and helps 
keep them in classrooms."

Though Illinois was twice a Race to the Top finalist, we did not secure a 
grant. It would have been easy to point fingers or to retreat to 
unproductive battle lines. Instead, Illinois did the opposite. The process 
of working together on two grueling federal grant applications built trust. 
Disparate groups learned to work through disagreements. Those involved 
started asking what else was necessary to finish the job our Race to the Top 
process started.

Even so, SB 7 did not come about easily: One of the state's Race to the Top 
legislative leaders, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, and the state board 
led four months of negotiations among union, management, and reform groups. 
Those discussions, though heated, were always respectful. We believe SB7 is 
more likely to enhance teaching and learning in Illinois because the unions 
were at the table advocating for students as well as their members. All of 
those who have been involved in this process share the opinion that the 
bill's goal is to elevate classroom instruction.

With this bill, teachers will no longer earn tenure based only on years of 
service; they must demonstrate a high level of proficiency during their 
first four years of teaching. And although experience still matters, 
teachers will no longer keep or lose their jobs based on their number of 
years in the classroom. An improved evaluation system with performance-based 
measures, including student-growth indicators and more-robust teacher 
observations, will allow school districts that are struggling financially to 
hold on to great young teachers in spite of their few years on the job. And 
ineffective teachers who have not demonstrated improvement within 90 days 
will be dismissed through a streamlined hearing process.

The legislative process in Illinois differed from those in other states this 
year. Gov. Quinn and Sen. Lightford ensured that, unlike our neighbors in 
Wisconsin and Ohio, Illinois education stakeholders would work together to 
craft an aggressive bill that could make our state the nation's new leader 
in education reform, provided the reforms are well implemented. The 
experience was not reduced to realigning power or curtailing the influence 
of any group. Teachers were not painted as overprivileged burdens on the 
state economy. The collaboration was done patiently through shared work. We 
feel that this path positions Illinois especially well for the bill's 
implementation, as the groups have emerged with a greater commitment to 
working together.

It is not our intention to argue that every state can follow the process 
that has been effective for Illinois. Each state has its own needs, 
politics, and leadership. However, given the divisiveness and acrimony that 
has dominated state and local education policymaking in recent months, it is 
important to recognize that combat is not the only answer. Reform can be 
rooted in respect.

Some have questioned whether the bill is "tough" enough. If tough is taken 
to mean "rigorous," we are quite confident it will hold up to the most 
important scrutiny-implementation. What matters about policy is how it is 
plays out in schools. In contrast to other states, especially those that 
have passed similar reform laws opposed by the teachers they're supposed to 
support, we believe Illinois has several advantages:

* Local control. While experts will help state officials create evaluation 
options, teachers and administrators in each Illinois district have the 
flexibility to tailor their educator evaluations to address local needs.

* Structure. Groups are working together to implement past legislation, and 
channels exist for cooperative design, issue resolution, and results sharing 
between practitioners.

* Communication. The state is developing communications materials so 
districts, school boards, interested parents, and legislators can better 
understand how the reforms will be carried out.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that phase-two Race to 
the Top finalist states, including Illinois, could receive funding in the 
next round this fall. Our state may be eligible for up to $30 million to 
assist in the implementation of SB7 and the state's other recent laws. 
That's less money than we had hoped to win in earlier rounds, but this has 
never been about the money. It's been about Illinois continuing on a path 
for true reform.

Through a collaborative process that is deservedly getting national 
attention, Illinois education stakeholders accomplished something 
remarkable. Now, it is time for the focus to shift from the Statehouse to 
public school classrooms across Illinois. Our students deserve the best we 
can deliver.


John Luczak is the education program manager at the Joyce Foundation, in 
Chicago, and advised Gov. Pat Quinn's office on Illinois' phase-one Race to 
the Top application. (The Joyce Foundation supports coverage by Education 
Week and edweek.org of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession.) 
Dan Montgomery is the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. 
Darren Reisberg is deputy superintendent and general counsel of the Illinois 
State Board of Education. Ken Swanson is the president of the Illinois 
Education Association.

List services made available by First Step Internet,
serving the communities of the Palouse since 1994.
          mailto:Vision2020 at moscow.com

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list