Our guest blogger, Jeffrey Dunn is 2014 Regional Teacher of the year from ESD 101. Jeffrey is an educator, cultural critic, & backwoods modernist currently teaching in Deer Park, Washington. He invites others to read bell hooks, Paulo Freire, and Richard Brautigan.
Try and imagine the impact this fact has on my students. No longer am I a model of all that is correct. No longer am I the authority on all that is academic. In this case, I am learning disabled as defined in Washington State law (WAC 392-172A-03055). This law reads that learning disabilities may include “conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.” In short, I am not the model of perfection students are led to believe all we teachers are.
Researchers from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity's Sally Shaywitz (Overcoming Dyslexia) and the College de France and Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale'sStanislas Dehaene (Reading in the Brain) estimate that between 10-20% (call it the midpoint, 15%) of all human populations are dyslexic (variation is a result of definition and assessment practice). Think of it, in any class of 25, we should expect 4 of our students to be dyslexic. My thirty-six years of teaching experience has proven this statistic to be true.
Twelve years ago, George Bush signed “No Child Left Behind” into law. Among other things, the law requires that by the end of this school year every student in America has to meet standard. That level of success will never happen, of course, not even in Finland, but no one has bothered to change that part of the law. Instead, the Obama Administration has used that law as leverage to advance their own educational agenda, which includes expanded school choice, adoption of the Common Core State Standards and tougher teacher evaluation laws. They’ve done this by granting waivers from the law's punitive aspects to states that adopt certain policies.
Washington State received one of those waivers, along with 31 other states. And for the most part, we’ve toed the line. We now allow charter schools, we’re transitioning to the CCSS, and we have a brand-new Teacher and Principal Evaluation Project. (TPEP)
But there’s a problem. As written, TPEP allows state assessment scores to be used for teacher evaluation. The feds want TPEP to require that they be used. The feds have recently notified our state, warning us that we risk losing our waiver unless TPEP is changed so that it mandates the use of state assessment data.
As a teacher, I can see no possible way in which state test scores can be used as a valid basis for my evaluation. I teach fourth grade; my students took a state test last year and they’ll take another one this year. But it’s not the same test. Last year they took a third grade test and this year they’ll take a fourth grade test. The smart kids in my class passed their test last year and they’ll probably pass their test this year. The kids who are struggling this year didn’t pass their test last year and they’ll have a tough time passing this year’s test.
Last month I shared my thoughts about how "coverage pressure" nearly led me to move on before my students were ready. My decision to slow down and focus on my students' skills rather than simply plow forward resulted in far better student performance both on that essay as well as the next essay they are currently writing for me. I have had several students voluntarily tell me that they understand what to do far better now because we slowed down and spent more time digging deeper.
The new evaluation law requires that all teachers be able to demonstrate how their planning and implementation results in student growth toward an important content standard or goal. As I wrote that piece linked above, a minor epiphany occurred to me: coverage of content and student growth are not the same thing.
Earlier this year, Washington state received a high risk warning from the federal government regarding its teacher evaluation system. One issue: whether state test results can be used in teacher evaluation, or whether they must be used. Randy Dorn has requested that the state legislature address this issue in the upcoming session.
The high risk warning letter concerns one of the "inputs" of teacher evaluation--the potential use of state tests. Yesterday, OSPI issued a report concerning one of the "outputs" of our evaluation system--human resource decisions. The report, "Using Teacher and Principal Evaluations to Inform Human Resource Decisions," was put together by OSPI and the education research organization American Institute for Research (AIR). They surveyed and conducted forums with Washington stake holders and looked at national trends. It includes interesting data about teacher and administrator views--see the graph up to the left.
Clearly, evaluation results can already be used in human resource decisions such as non-renewal. Recent changes to the law mean that by 2015-2016, evaluation results will also be included in human resource decisions such as layoffs, RIFs, transfers, and moving from provisional to continuing contract status. Some districts are using evaluation results for decisions on leadership opportunities and professional development. This affects a lot of people--we need to have a good system here.
An interesting section of the report talks about some of the unintended consequences of using evaluations in human resource decisions. A few quotes:
"Teachers expressed a desire to use their focused evaluations as an opportunity to try new strategies that might not result in a Proficient rating. Some teachers would be deterred from trying new approaches if employment decisions would be based on those results."
"By using teacher evaluation data in HR decisions, particularly employment decisions, participants worried that teachers would begin to compete with each other rather than cooperate to improve student learning."
One striking trend that emerged in the report was time. This is the first year that ALL school districts in the state of Washington are using TPEP evaluation. Educators wanted time to ensure that both evaluators and those being evaluated received appropriate training, and also wanted time to test out the new system itself.
The report states (p. 13) that in the upcoming legislative session, OSPI is pursuing a change to current state law that would delay the use of evaluations in human resource decisions until the 2016-17 school year. A delay like this is a good idea: let's try our new system out before increasing the high stakes consequences attached to it! We need to get this right.
The top priority of the Quality Education Council Report is to “Make Progress Toward Ample Funding for Basic Education.” The QEC recognizes many “non—basic education programs to be essential for providing critical services for students” – including funds for professional development. A little further down the list of priorities is support for the recruitment, development, placement, and retention of educators who are culturally competent and possess skills and competencies in language acquisition.
That’s what I do. I am part of a team of six Instructional Mentors who oversee the novice teacher induction program. But funding for our position does not come from the state.
The current law regarding teacher evaluation states that all teachers must demonstrate impact on student growth as part of their evaluation. Growth (in RCW 28A.405.100 2f) is defined as the change in student achievement between two points in time, and presently states that assessment data for determining growth can be drawn from classroom, school, district, or state based tools.
This terminology did not sit well with the USDE, who labeled Washington's NCLB waiver status to "conditional" last August. Last week (November 12, 2013), OSPI issued a press release that included the following (bold emphasis mine):
“Student growth data … must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based, and state-based tools.”
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction secured a waiver from some requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act in August. But the Department of Education termed the waiver “conditional” because it objected to the word “can” in 28A.405.100.
“When the Legislature was debating this back in 2010, I said the language didn’t go far enough,” Dorn said. “The Department of Education wants state-based tests to be a required measure, not a voluntary one. I’m introducing legislation that will basically replace the word ‘can’ with ‘must.’ Test scores should not be the sole measure used to evaluate teachers, but they must be one of the tools we use in our new accountability system.”
This is not a simple syntactical switch.
What complications do you foresee from a "can" to "must" switcheroo? Or is it the right path to take?
When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you're not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.
~Frank McCourt, Teacher Man
McCourt, a thirty-year teaching veteran and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela's Ashes, is describing the reason it took him so long in life, until the age of 66 actually, to write his first book.
Unlike Frank McCourt, I am not trying to "fashion deathless prose." I am just trying to write this blog post. However, I know what he is talking about. After a day of five classes, interacting with one hundred-and-some-impossibly-large number of high school students, putting together a coherent series of thoughts can be a daunting challenge.
Last year I had a student teacher--an outstanding one. This year, she has her own classroom in a different district. One of my fellow teachers recently gave her Teacher Man, which we also read for a school book study a few years ago. My former student teacher brought the "deathless prose" and "clamor of the classroom" quotation above to our attention. Yes, that "clamor of the classroom" is often a positive thing, but, still, it is a day-long clamor! My former student teacher is dealing with many of the challenges faced by new teachers as they enter the profession. On top of all this, she has some very large class sizes! I have a few of those as well, and some of my colleagues have classes that are downright physically crowded.
My large classes are full of students with large personalities! One student wants to tell about the funny thing that happened to him yesterday afternoon. He has a new story every day. Another student has a long, complicated, and ongoing drama involving a boyfriend. A student is learning English and wants to follow me around asking questions. Another student is learning English and sits silently. One student unexpectedly shows up with some silica salts that change color when dehydrated. This will require a Bunsen burner. Three students are about to leave for the sports event and need their homework right now. All that put together adds up to "clamor in the classroom," seriously complicated by large class sizes!
While the sheer number of daily human interactions itself can sometimes be hard for both students and teachers, there are other reasons large class sizes pose problems. With smaller classes, we are able to provide more individualized attention to each student--and students have more opportunities to make relationships with adults in the classroom and with eachother. Low income students show especially large academic gains when they have small class sizes. Teachersstay in the profession longer when their class sizes are not so large--and this results in more consistent and stable instruction in schools. School counselors with large caseloads face similar issues.
Back in 2009, the Washington state legislature passed ESHB 2261, which established the Quality Education Council. The Quality Education Council adopted recommendations for specific lower class sizes, but staffing allocations in the state budget have yet to fund these.
Now the Washington state legislature needs to put its own recommendations for lower class sizes, recommendations adopted by the Quality Education Council, into place in our schools. It might be time to clamor for it.
The following is a guest-post from Sarah Applegate, an NBCT teacher librarian at River Ridge High School in Lacey Washington. She is passionate about quality information literacy instruction, working with teachers to provide a wide range of resources for students, and dark, bitter Finnish licorice.
I have a confession.
I am a “Finnophile” (“one who
loves all things from Finland”) and a “ChauvaFinn”
(“one who displays excessive pride in Finland”) yet I hold an American passport.
My friends and colleagues will
tell you that since I returned from a Fulbright study in Finland in 2011, I
have sought out every opportunity to reflect upon and share what I learned and
observed during my research on the Finnish education and library system. Some might say I sought out TOO many
opportunities- during casual dinners, on long runs, and while watching our kids
at the park, to share memories,
insights and observations from my time in Finland. While embracing my Finnish obsession,
I have continued to reflect on what I observed while in Finnish schools and
libraries. I have constantly considered how schools in Washington could learn
from Finnish education practice and translate them into Washington state
On September 21, I was finally able to make connections
between what I had learned and observed in Finland through a Finnish Education
Conference, funded by the US Department of State with support from CSTP and
WEA. We gathered 50 teachers from Washington to hear and think about what makes
Finland’s education system work and how their approaches could be used in
Washington state schools. I brought together four US Finland Fulbright
teachers, as well as two Finnish teachers, to speak on how Finland organizes
their education system, designs and delivers instruction and trains their teachers.
During the morning, participants were able to learn about Finnish education practices
and in the afternoon, teachers a chance to “translate” what they had learned to
their own teaching context and plan for potential implementation of Finnish
practices in their Washington state setting. What we translated has some promising implications for us in our schools - read on to see what we cooked up.
We’ve got something unique here in Washington state in terms
of education organizations that work with teachers. Yeah, we have some great districts, state education agencies, unions. In
addition to all that, here in Washington, we’ve got an independent nonprofit
with a focus on teaching—and that organization, the Center for Strengthening
the Teaching Profession, is celebrating its ten year anniversary this month!
So what does CSTP do?
Just a few of the activities:
and Advocacy. What’s different about
CSTP advocacy training? No talking
points provided! Whether online or in
person, CSTP advocacy training gives teachers the opportunity to develop their
own messages for their own audiences, whether that audience is local, state, or
national. At an advocacy training
before a recent legislative session, one teacher, a tad frustrated, asked, “Where
are the talking points?” The facilitator’s
response: “The talking points will be better if you, the teachers, develop
The communication is not just limited to speaking—writers’
retreats (and this blog!) have given educators the opportunity to develop writing
Very frequently, in K-12 school cultures, the term “leadership” is used
interchangeably with the term “administration.” The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession
has worked to expand that definition with the development of the Teacher
Leadership Skills Framework. The NBCT Leadership Conference, one of CSTP’s
signature events, has been a launchpad for many newly certified NBCTs to not
only hone leadership skills, but also to develop their own personal network of
statewide teacher leaders.
CSTP doesn’t just strengthen the teaching profession, CSTP
strengthens individual teachers. One
teacher recently said, “There’s a whole lot going on besides what is
going on in my own little classroom, and CSTP helps me learn about it.”
Research. CSTP commissions research to help all sorts
of agencies and organizations better understand teaching and learning, as well
as support for teaching and learning, in Washington state classrooms.
And hey, the audience for all this is definitely not limited
to teachers! CSTP pulls together
instructional leaders of all sorts in work such as helping train and
support the Instructional Framework Feedback Specialists for our new state
teacher principal evaluation system. In
another example of working with administrators and teachers across the career
continuum, CSTP developed a module designed to help principals better assist
new teachers in their buildings.
Advocacy, leadership, and research? It’s been an amazing ten years. So where is CSTP going in the next ten?
I had an amazing mentor my first year of teaching. Fresh out of my M.A.T. program and almost three hundred miles away from my small-town home, she was exactly what I needed.
A great start makes all the difference.
Any investment we can make in a great beginning is a worthy investment, whether for our pre-K kids, our own new students in September, or for those teachers just starting their careers. Of course, resources are sometimes the stumbling block. However, the Beginning Educator Support Program is a way to provide opportunities for early-service teachers. Grant applications are due October 4th... so get those ducks and row them up. Here is the text of a recent email from CSTP about this work:
Districts or consortia of districts may apply now for grants from the Beginning Educator Support (BEST) Program, administered by OSPI and funded by the legislature. BEST provides competitive grants for districts to create comprehensive support for early-career teachers. Specifically, BEST grants provide $2500 per first year teacher, $2000 per second year teacher and $500 for other provisional-status teachers who change assignments. Districts agree to provide a paid orientation for new teachers, well-trained mentors, professional learning for both new teachers and mentors, and release time for mentors and mentees to observe others.
Applications are due to OSPI by 5 pm on Monday, Oct. 4. You can find the application and more information about BEST here - http://www.k12.wa.us/BEST/.
As exciting is the recent news that the state of Washington has been selected to part of a $15 million, three-year grant program from the U.S. Department of Education via the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and which will be collaboratively administered by the powerful trifecta of WEA, OSPI and CSTP in the coming school years. These grants are in part aimed at cultivating teacher capacity as instructional leaders. The name of the program, SEED (which stands for Supporting Effective Educator Development), says it all.
One drum I beat constantly is that if we want education reform to work, teachers must be the ones empowered to not only implement the change, but to be the ones who design it.
I often hear about "layers of bureaucracy and waste" in school districts. The comments under the news website articles about education tout the inefficiency and top-heaviness of school systems. That is perhaps the case in some places. Over the last few decades, instructional coaching has been in fashion as a layer somewhere in limbo between classroom teacher and building administrator. In tight budgets, these positions are often the first to go, since their impact on students is not always so obvious and traceable.
To some, coaching or being a TOSA (like I am for .4 of my day) is a stepping stone out of the classroom into administration. That's fine, but I believe that for most of us in that role, it isn't a means to some personal ladder-climbing end. For me, having no aspirations to be in administrative leadership, coaching or TOSA-ing is about supporting classroom instruction.
Logic and research both prove that of all the factors within the control of a school, the one with the greatest impact on student learning is teacher pedagogical skill. If this is the case, the potential power of teacher-leaders in coaching or TOSA roles cannot be understated. With so many demands on building administrators for everything from student discipline to recess duty to teacher evaluation, it is very easy for the difficult and time-consuming work of improving instruction to get unintentional short shrift. In too many cases, efforts to improve instruction manifest as hastily assembled sit-and-get powerpoint assaults or the spending of inordinate amounts of money to fly in some expert to talk at teachers for a day or two about decontextualized theory and the next new curriculum to buy. Missing are the intense and reflective one-on-one probing conversations that demand not only time but strong relationships that likewise require time to develop.
About a year ago I was sitting in a training, titled "Common Assessments, blah, blah, blah" (I can't remember the title).
But it was in that session that I remember, for probably the first time if not in my career then in a long time, actually learning something I thought I could use. Hence, this facebook status update:
I had just finished my tenth year of teaching, and was about to embark on my eleventh and begin referring to myself as "mid-career."
In reflection, it obviously wasn't that I had never been exposed to quality professional development. (Well, maybe...) The change, though, happened in my head. Suddenly, I was at a point in my career where I was mentally ready to learn. Seeing a new strategy was no longer a threat meaning that "the way I teach is wrong." Rather than feel obligated to accept and apply everything the trainer offered, I realized that even walking away with the tiniest applicable nugget was a success.
It was really at that moment that I finally began to grow as a teacher. It started by simply becoming open to learning that challenged me, rather than only being open to learning that already fit into my current view of myself and my practice.
If you say the word too many times, it starts to sound funny (like if you say "moist" or "pancake" too many times and they start to sound strange...maybe that's just me). It seems like every sentence in my professional life includes that word "growth" in one context or another. Student growth scores, Professional Growth Planning, proficiency growth scales...
I like it. It does something more than grades or labels once did: talking grades and labels felt so static and permanent, talking growth is talking movement. Where I used to talk to kids about "bringing a grade up" (in other words, struggling to move something beyond themselves) now I find myself talking to students about developing their skills and growing toward proficiency. There is a real difference.
I attribute this directly to my professional and personal learning about the new teacher evaluation system.
Last June the members of the association gathered into a high school gymnasium to vote on a new labor contract. No union member or district official can recall a contract that was settled so early. We have always bargained through the summer. Our ratification meeting usually happens in August when room is hotter and tensions are higher.
After the bargaining team briefed us on the new contract a teacher approaches the microphone and asks, “What did we give up with this contract?”
“Animosity.” was the reply.
The district and the union followed a new model of contract negotiation- Interest Based Bargaining (IBB). In IBB both sides generate a list of issues they wish to see resolved in the contract. But unlike traditional bargaining solutions are not proposed. Instead the bargaining sessions are used to brainstorm solutions and the negotiations become problem solving exercises.
The contract was ratified with over 99% of the union voting yes. The Association was very happy with the outcome.
The next morning I attended the district’s contract briefing. Surprisingly, the district was just as satisfied. In this briefing, the Director of Human Resources shared each issue and solution. The common denominator in nearly every agreed upon solution was “What is best for student learning.”
The only solution that has the potential to negatively impact student learning was to remove the cap on the number personal days that can be taken by staff on a given day throughout the district. There is a possibility for a substitute shortage. Both sides have agreed to revisit this topic next spring and share data on the impact of this new contract language.
I contrast this bargaining process with our past negotiations and the recent brinksmanship in Seattle and I’m convinced IBB should be the model we follow going forward.
The History Channel recently ran a series called Your Bleeped-Up Brain, and if you can get past that staggeringly stupid title, there are some interesting tidbits to be found about how our minds work.
In particular, I caught a snip the other day about how humans define "truth." The main salient points: first, we are wired to believe the first information we see, hear, or learn; second, it is incredibly difficult for us to unlearn that "first" and replace it with new information. This is essentially the "primacy effect," where we are inherently more apt to trust, accept, and maintain belief in the first thing we hear or read. Add this as well: we are far more apt to believe information that confirms feelings we already hold, regardless of the veracity or validity--or even logic--of that information.
I have been fighting a slow and constant battle within my district to help implement our new evaluation system (TPEP, though I hate acronyms) and empower teachers to understand and use the framework not just when thinking about their performance review but moreso when thinking about their own practice. In our district of roughly 400 certificated staff, it is obviously difficult to communicate to everyone in a personal, meaningful, and clear way. It is also a challenge to accurately and authentically monitor what they really do and don't understand.
Because we are human beings, we often look to one another first for information, before digging into things such as legalese about what is actually policy. The clear problem with this? It is easier to chat in the staff room and spread hearsay than to actually look it up. Sadly, we're then more likely to use unsubstantiated hearsay as the foundation for our feelings and opinions--and then refuse to accept new information when confronted with fact that contradicts what we thought we knew.
Case in point: recently I was told that it states unequivocally in the state RCWs that teachers are required to compile an eight-section portfolio of evidence to support their performance on each of the eight state evaluation criteria (and in areas of focus, cross-referenced with framework elements). I know the law, and it states absolutely nothing that could even be stretched to construe such a directive. Yet, this colleague of mine was certain she was right and I was wrong. Why? She heard it from a friend who teaches in another district.
There are few things worse than being fired up and not knowing what to do next.
That is where I find myself with the recent discussion about student growth, teacher evaluation, and the federal government. (Chances are you've already read a little about this from me, Tom, Maren and Kristin.)
But here's where I get stuck. It is easy for me to sit here at my desktop and engage in discourse with my peers about how misguided is the federal position on using one-shot test scores to evaluate teachers. In discussion here, on facebook, on other blogs, and even in old-fashioned face-to-face conversation, I've discovered that there are a lot of very intelligent people talking about this issue. (CSTP even noted that the traffic on this blog has spiked by a couple thousand pageviews in the last few days alone.)
For other issues, I've known to whom to go: my local leadership, state legislators, and so on. With this one, though, I truly don't know what to do next. Conversation needs to continue, for sure. At some point it needs to translate to action, or else this is all just a bunch of cached webpages.
Brainstorm with me, if you will: What can you and I do next? Who do we talk to? Is there hope? And what do we do once we've ignored the people who answer "no" to that last question?
If nothing else, let's keep the conversation going--and invite others to join in.
So educators don't get the summer off. Yes, it can be a time of rest and relaxation, but it's also a time for preparation, training, and study. This summer, in particular, educators around our state have been getting ready to implement our new teacher evaluation system, with framework instruction, calibration trainings, and local bargaining.
After all this, what sort of news do we get, now, at the end of the summer? Well, we're at risk. The Department of Education sent our state a warning letter saying that our state teacher evaluation system does not comply with the waiver requirements for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or No Child Left Behind)--our state has been placed on "high-risk" status.
So what's the problem? Well, the U.S. Department of Education is not satisfied with the way Washington state law ties teacher evaluation to state tests. Current state law (5895) reads as follows: “Student growth data…must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based, and state-based tools.”
The issue? The word "can" as it relates to the state-based tools. Instead of "can include" state tests, this warning letter is looking for something more along the lines of "must include" state tests.
How could our state address this?
If state tests were required for evaluation, one possibility is that we could end up with two separate teacher evaluation systems in Washington state, one system for teachers with state tests, one system for teachers without them. I teach tenth grade biology. I don't know how student growth could be measured by the Biology End of Course Exam, since it is only given once at the end of the year, but if it were, that could mean that my teacher evaluation score would depend on state tests while the history teacher's evaluation, just next door, would not, as there is no state test in history. The possibility exists that a value added measure could be attached to end of course exams through a multivariate model—this is a controversial idea.
Another alternative? Evaluate teachers in teams. What's this all about? Here's the language from the high-risk warning letter:
"Since under Washington state law student growth data elements may include the teacher's performance as a member of a grade level, subject matter, or other instructional team within a school, along with the amended request, Washington must provide business rules defining these teams of teachers and explaining how student growth is calculated for a team. Washington must also provide data to demonstrate that Washington's use of shared attribution of student growth does not mask high or low performance of educators."
Again, our state assessment system just won't work for this. Should the physical science teachers in my school be evaluated based on my biology students' test scores? What about the PE and band teachers? Should they be evaluated based on overall school or grade level student scores on state tests? This has actually happened in other states, and it makes little sense!
Requiring teacher evaluation to be tied to student sores on state tests is not a system that will work well in Washington state (or probably any state for that matter!). Our state student assessment system just doesn't fit with our state teacher evaluation program, nor should it. Forcing an alignment between the two will neither improve state education nor result in an increase in student learning.
The Feds have sent a letter to the state of Washington indicating that we aren't quite doing what they want when it comes to teacher and principal evaluation. Aside from our crazy approach of taking time to learn, train teachers and administrators, and implement the system thoughtfully rather than quickly, one sticking point appears to be that we are a little too willing to differentiate when it comes to how student data is used to evaluate teachers.
In my opinion, we're right, they're wrong. As it stands, the state law...
Does not require districts to use state test scores in teacher evaluation; this option is a district choice. (In most districts, only about 12-15% of teachers actually teach tested grade levels and content... oh, also see #2 and #3 below that clarify the limits of state assessments.)
Emphasizes evaluating the teacher's professional ability to choose the right assessment sequence to determine student growth, and then set meaningful growth goals for classes and subsets of students based on student needs, entry skills, as well as appropriate content standards. (This is actually weighted more heavily than whether "all the kids pass" the assessments.)
Requires multiple points of data all aligned to the same learning or skill standard, rather than a single snapshot assessment. (Multiple points show a trajectory, whereas a single point captures a moment.)
Like too much policy, the further the "deciders" are away from the classroom, the more out-of-touch the policy is and the more focused it becomes on what is easiest to administer. Which is easier... looking a a once-a-year matrix of test data OR tracking each individual student using targeted skills assessments over the course of time? Duh.
But the right question is which is better?
That, to me, is just as obvious.
Washington: we're doing the right thing. It may not be perfect, but it is better for kids, teachers, schools and communities than hinging everything on a single moment in time.
When I stepped into this role as "Teacher on Special Assignment," the job description was vague. Our district had not had a role like this at the secondary level, and as it was a part-time gig (two periods out of my day--with the other four periods consisting of my prep period and three periods with kids) neither I nor the leadership above me really knew what the work would look like in practice.
In the end, I learned so much this year. I learned things that I can apply in my own classroom, and of course I learned a thing or two about what it means to be this particular breed of "Teacher Leader."
The first thing I learned was to whom I should listen, and why.
"Ambitious teaching = rigor + equity. What does this mean for the Next Generation Science Standards?" This provocative question, posed at a conference last week by Mark Windschitl of the University of Washington, has been a framework for me for the last few days not just for thinking about science standards, but also for thinking about teaching in general.
First off, I like the term "ambitious teaching." Ambitious teaching sounds accessible, because, well, that means we as teachers can all aspire to high goals--and if we don't succeed, we can always try again! It's kind of like a "growth mindset" for teaching. Ambitious implies continuous growth, as opposed to reaching an endpoint.
Ambitious teaching in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards? That means rigor for both the teachers and the students--the new standards marry science practices, disciplinary ideas, and cross-cutting concepts in a way we haven't seen before. This will challenge our teaching, and it will also challenge our students. How to get the students to achieve this level of rigor? Growth mindset might again be part of the answer: Ann Renker, principal of Neah Bay Middle and High School, serving the Makah Indian reservation, has had remarkable results with growth mindset and incorporating the ideas of “hard work, not natural intelligence” throughout the school.
I've been having a bit of a problem lately in my classes.
My students were tasked to create a visual metaphor of the allegory represented in George Orwell's Animal Farm, do research about the "factual" side of their allegorical connection, and assemble this all into an end product that showed their skills at a whole slew of the Common Core State Standards in ELA-Reading-Lit and ELA-Reading-Informational Texts, with each standard accompanied by a proficiency level scale that clearly defined what achievement of the standard would look like.
My problem is that too many of them are earning A's. Even the kids who aren't supposed to.
Educator effectiveness is where it’s at right now in Washington state. Student teachers are currently filming themselves and analyzing student learning for the edTPA (teacher performance assessment). We have a challenging ProTeach evidence-based assessment for teachers trying to get their professional certificate. Approximately 13% of the teachers in our state are National Board certified. In addition to all of this, we have a new teacher principal evaluation system that is currently being piloted and will go into effect next school year.
Mr. Aldeman starts by painting the picture of five elementary schools in Pasco. Aldeman talks about how the students perform poorly on state tests while the teachers, despite the low test scores, are almost all evaluated as satisfactory. My fellow blogger Tom White wrote more about this. What does Aldeman not mention? These particular schools in Pasco have 50-70% of their students learning English--some of the highest percentages of English language learners in the state. Our state tests are given exclusively in English—clearly students who do not speak English are going to be at a huge disadvantage. Giving teachers poor evaluations because their English-learning students do not perform well on tests in English is not going to improve student learning!
The Next Generation Science Standards, like the Mars Rover or even some new and strange
space ship hovering above a farmer’s cornfield, are about to land here in
Washington and in many states across our country. Our job as educators? Let’s hijack that spaceship. I mean that in a positive way: let’s grab
those standards, make them our own, and use them to improve student learning
and our science education system.
The final version of the standards will likely be released this month, and probably be adopted
soon thereafter by our state. Some
changes from the earlier drafts many are hoping to see? Hopefully, some increased
clarity in language and a reduction in the overall scope of the standards,
avoiding the “mile-wide and inch-deep” problem.
As one reviewer said, “We're
here to produce learners, not people who have been exposed to a lot of content." Possible opposition to reduced scope in
standards? One person mentioned the “Julie Andrews” curriculum problem: what does
an individual want to include? “These are a few of my favorite things”—and it
is not possible to include everyone’s favorite things.
Why do I say the Next Generation Science Standards resemble a new
and strange spaceship?
Last year was my first foray into tromping the halls of Olympia as a novice education advocate. I'm still far from an expert--which was one of my reasons for being so reticent to have a political voice.
I think many of us feel that way. The first step, as always, is just to pay attention...read, watch, listen, make up your mind (and remember, it's okay to disagree with your colleagues, your school, and your union, as long as your disagreement is informed).
WEA keeps an active site that is a good place for your radar to first ping: OurVoice. A few bills of note (and I think they're all still live as I type this...but things can change quickly!)
S5588: Restricts use of half-days for professional development, marketed as "changing the definition of 'school day.'" (WEA's take, here.)
HB1673: Gradually reduces student-to-teacher class size ratios for calculating state allocations, including provisions for even smaller class sizes in high-poverty schools. According to this document, Washington would need to hire over 12,000 teachers to bring our class size to the national average (we're presently the 4th most crowded).
While there are other bills (and troubling ideas) out there and various stages of their life cycles, ranging from misguided attempts to businessify the teacher evaluation model that hasn't even been given the chance to get off the ground to others that affect collective bargaining, the class size bill, HB1673, is the one I'm thinking about at the moment.
You've never seen science standards like these before. There's a big change coming to science education in Washington state and in much of the rest of the country, and if you want to have a say in it, the time is now. The final public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is now open for review and will close on January 29, so give those standards a glance! Read as much or as little of it as you want--all feedback welcome. With a strong integration of science and engineering practices with traditional science content, these new standards are challenging and thought provoking. Washington state is very likely to adopt these later this spring, possibly in March, so now's your chance to weigh in.
I've had a few different opportunities to discuss this draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): once in a charming rural cafe with a group composed mainly of local science teachers; once in an urban conference room with science education professionals who were primarily not teachers; and on Twitter at #NGSS and #NGSSchat--check out those hashtags!
So what did people have to say about these standards which are radically different from what we have now in both form and content?
I teach 9th grade English so one of my Common Core State Standards reads like this:
Informational Texts: Delineate and evaluate argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
I usually focus most on this standard when examining logical fallacies portrayed in advertising as part of my propaganda unit during the teaching of Animal Farm. The kids quickly see the illogical and unsupported claims about toothpastes, beauty products, diet pills and any number of other too-good-to-be-true product pitches. When the validity of the reasoning only takes a moment of critical thought to deconstruct, they get good at it. When claims are presented that "seem" valid on first blush, though, the kids have a hard time decoding the nuance of falsehood behind the presumptive truth.
The route information takes nowadays is more like the game of telephone than ever before, with information being stripped, twisted and de-contextualized until it emerges at the end of the line as a statement whose meaning is a completely different message than the original referent. Thus, our challenge is not to help students spot the obviously fallacious reasoning, but to have their radar on for the subtle (and I believe, often intentionally manipulative) misinformation, misguidance, incompleteness, or writerly interpretation that portrays itself as truth and fact.
This was already in my mind when I read this seemingly innocuous passage in an article about teachers:
A press release, an op-ed, and a television interview—what’s up with all the media on Washington state assessment? Our Superintendent of Public Instruction just released a new proposal: reduce the number of exit exams required for high school graduation from five to three. This proposal shows concern for mitigating some of the negative effects of large amounts of testing on the Class of 2015, sophomores I currently have as students. Specifically, the number of math exams would be reduced from two to one, and reading and writing would be combined into a single exam. In science, however, the proposal would still move forward with a brand new graduation requirement this year focusing on biology. This means that not only will our state’s sole high school science exam be in biology, but the emphasis on biology will also be increased by making that exam high stakes.
Randy Dorn cited some excellent reasons for the overall reduction in assessments, saying “too much classroom time is devoted to preparing for tests, taking tests and preparing to retake tests.” He also noted the high cost of Washington’s assessment system.
However, there is another factor besides cost and time that comes into play here: assessment drives instruction. When there is a single high stakes science assessment, and that assessment is in biology, then chemistry, physics, and earth science will be neglected. An alternate idea: we could keep administering our existing biology EOC, which would satisfy federal requirements, but delink the biology EOC from graduation. Eliminating the graduation requirement would relieve the current pressure on schools, which, in many cases, is distorting high school science education to emphasize biology. Delinking the biology exam from graduation would also save a considerable amount of money in remediation, retakes, and rescoring. Most expenditures in education hold out some promise of benefit: this expenditure is actually detrimental to science education in our state by marginalizing chemistry, physics, earth science, and STEM.
The McCleary ruling, which established that the Washington legislature was not adequately funding public education, is popping up in the news again. When the ruling was first issued at the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to remedy the ed funding debacle, I worried that it was just lip service with no teeth.
Recent news makes me optimistic that people are paying attention, though my worries still persist. The 2018 deadline is now a year closer than it was when first established, and it is hard to really point at "progress." The court has now said that it wants "yearly reports that 'demonstrate steady progress.'" (Sound familiar?) See the latter part of this article for a "clarification" about what this expectation from the courts might mean, and here's the link to the actual Supreme Court Order dated 20 December 2012. I particularly like this paragraph from page three of the court order:
In education, student progress is measured by yearly benchmarks according to essential academic goals and requirements. The State should expect no less of itself than of its students. Requiring the legislature to meet periodic benchmarks does not interfere with its prerogative to enact the reforms it believes best serve Washington's education system. To the contrary, legislative benchmarks help guide judicial review. We cannot wait until "graduation" in 2018 to determine if the State has met minimum constitutional standards.
I've learned to not read the comments under any online news report about teachers, education or policy--there's no dialogue there, and too often the perpetuation of incorrect information. I used to whack-a-mole the trolls, but it was futile. Perhaps StoriesfromSchool can be a place for reasoned and thoughtful discourse about this issue.
As a writing teacher, one of my greatest struggles involves getting kids to understand the writing process. Writing can be frustrating, arduous work. Understandably, then, when a kid puts the last period on the last sentence in the last paragraph, the impulse then is to put down the pen or click "print" and pass that piece on to the teacher.
As adults, we know that the last period is not the finish line, and that often the toughest work begins when the writing is "finished." The act of meaningful revision--the analysis of effectiveness, the cutting and splicing of sentences, the refining of vivid vocabulary--that formidable work often makes the first stages of writing seem simple. We know, though, that the difference between mediocre and exceptional comes with the time invested in revising, polishing, and refining. It is hard work. It is the right work to do, and it takes time. If that work is skimped upon or shirked, the end product will not have achieved its full potential.
When I had the opportunity to present to the Gates Foundation last week, the other presenters and I never met ahead of time to coordinate our message--yet the same point resonated loud and clear: the new evaluation system is the right work to do to improve teaching, schools, and student learning.
And the corollary to that point: doing this work will take time.
As some of you might have seen on Facebook, this past Thursday, December 6th, I had the privilege and opportunity to offer a short presentation and serve on a discussion panel for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Education Pathways meeting.
In the audience were names attached to some of most important and influential groups in public education in the state of Washington--and beyond, since also present were Ron Thorpe, President and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Washington's own Andy Coons, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of NBTPS. Walking into a room with leadership from OSPI, the Gates Foundation, the Association of Washington School Principals, CSTP, and numerous other organizations, I was quick to feel intimidated. After all, my main thought during my drive to Seattle was about whether my ninth graders were behaving for the sub--nothing quite so heady as the future of statewide policy.
My comfort zone is much more intimate with much clearer roles: When I walk into my own classroom, I am the expert, I am the authority. It's not that I wield power like a tyrant over my domain, but to those fourteen- and fifteen-year olds, I am the voice they are to listen to, heed, seek for advice, and learn from. I am the teacher: what I have to say matters.
In my eleven years of teaching, as I've ventured little by little into the world of education policy, there are many times when I find myself in a room filled with nicely pressed suits (and me wearing my one pair of decent slacks) feeling just the opposite way as I do in front of my classroom. I think to myself: I am just a teacher. Will what I say matter?
I attended an amazing conference in Seattle this week, Excellence in Education: Washington State and Finland. We learned about some great things going on in Finland, we learned about some great things going on in Washington, and I experienced some culture shock. Was it the differences between Finland and the United States that struck me? Well yes, there was that, and that is what got me started thinking about culture. However, instead of international differences, I was thinking about some of the cultural as well as philosophical differences between education groups in our own Washington state: differences between people who are in the classroom and those making policy decisions guiding classroom work; differences between policy makers and those doing education research. How to overcome those differences and build on them? Keynote speaker Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of Finland’s Education Ministry, said, “So much of what we do in Finland, we have learned from American researchers and educators.” He then very provocatively said the difference is that in Finland, they actually implement that research! Here in Washington, we need to get those research<—>policy<—> implementation links tightened up, and yes, those are double-headed arrows: information needs to flow each way!
There are some vast historical and social differences between Finland and Washington—an education system cannot just be transplanted. However, Finland has not always been an education high performer—it languished in the mid twentieth century—but over the past several decades, as Pasi Sahlberg said, “Finland has improved a lot, while the rest of the world has improved a little bit.” This improvement can be traced to policy decisions. What are a few of the Finnish Lessons we might learn?
As a "Marzano" district piloting forward toward implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, I am coming face to face with the kinds of expectations that are going to rattle my paradigm. The instructional frameworks OSPI allowed us to choose from do not represent dramatically different approaches to teaching or schools of thought about how teaching and learning should take place. What the frameworks do establish, though, are specific "research-based" teaching strategies that emerge as valued and therefore expected, since they are named in the evaluation scales against which I will be measured. In Marzano, a few stand out to me: learning targets, performance scales (rubrics), and students tracking their own growth against those scales.
I agree that these are solid instructional strategies: they just haven't always been a consistent and practiced part of my repertoire.
When I miss school for a professional reason, I like to briefly explain to my students why I will be gone—I want my students to know I do not take being absent from their class lightly. Before attending a recent training on our new teacher evaluation system, I told my chemistry students a bit about what I was going to be doing. I even showed them our colorful UW CEL instructional framework “Smart Card”—hey, it’s a little like the Periodic Table of Teaching!
Just before this, one of my senior students had asked me for a letter of recommendation. I have had this student in class for several years and would be happy to write one. Before I was going to be absent, I explained to the class the new teacher evaluation system as involving observations as well as teachers gathering and submitting evidence. Clearly, the student who had just asked me for a letter of recommendation was listening. He leaned back, raised his hand, and said with a big grin, “Ms. Johnson, do you need a recommendation letter for your evaluation too? Let’s talk about this—maybe we can work something out!”
When I was an undergraduate, I loved having the opportunity to choose whichever courses interested me. Outside of my major, I took everything from calculus to photography to sociology. I also took advantage of another benefit offered: the option to take courses "pass/fail." I engaged this option whenever there was the chance that I would earn less than an "A."
At the time, I justified it from a financial standpoint. I had tuition and housing scholarships which required a certain GPA: a "C" would harm my GPA, but a "P" had no effect on it and I'd still earn the credit. However, in hindsight, I see that this behavior was a sign of something I'm only now starting to understand: my transcript was my identity.
Recently at an after-school meeting, one of our building associate principals shared an article summarizing the work done by Carol Dweck of the Stanford University School of Psychology. The gist: while it is not absolute, there are generally two "mindsets" into which people can be classified--the "fixed" mindset and the "growth" mindset.
A person whose disposition is in the "growth" mindset will relish challenge, recover from failure having learned and applied critical lessons, and "end up" in a different and usually better place from where they "start out."
Paper. A school is dependent on paper. This thin, white, innocuous object has value beyond what is initially seen. Paper marks the flow of ideas and learning throughout the school. It is hard to imagine a school without paper. Yet, each year imagining a school without paper becomes easier to imagine.
Paper is an indicator species for resources in the school. Paper represents the health and strength of the school. Paper is symbolic of other resources within the school such as writing utensils, novels, additional support in the library, or clubs to create school culture.
Paper, and that for which it represents, is another item I will include on my list of Invisibles.
In keeping with October's theme of Invisibles, I share with you ... The Meetings, but first, a brief definition. "Invisibles" is a general term for all of the unseen things that teachers do to keep the education machine running. The goal of October is to bring a few of these Invisibles to light so that people outside of the school setting have a clear idea of what it is like inside the school.
So on to The Meetings as my teaching partner and I have been all week. It started on Monday ....
The auditorium was packed with several hundred teenagers from two school districts when the bell rang for lunch. No one moved. The occasion causing the students to sit in place and ignore the bell? An arts assembly at our school. In conjunction with a local film festival, our students had watched a movie in their social studies classes and now had the opportunity to hear from the director. A student asked the guest speaker one last question, "Do you have any advice for aspiring film makers?" Students wanted to hear the answer, and they weren't going anywhere until they did, lunch bell or not. Our guest, the award winning film maker Alrick Brown, shared three ideas in response:
1) Study your craft. If you shake your booty on YouTube, that doesn't mean you're a film maker. If you get a million hits on the internet, that doesn’t mean you’re a film maker. The success needs to be replicable and you get that by studying your craft.
At first I thought this was some sort of statement against the democratization of art through social media. Not at all. Our guest mentioned that the reason he was able to be a successful film maker, making movies in often difficult circumstances in developing countries, was because he studied and worked hard at it: a Masters Degree in Education, followed by two years in the Peace Corps, then a Masters Degree in Film making. The message of the importance of study and hard work in all careers really seemed to hit home with the students. Clearly this applies to teachers as well—we need to study our craft!
Struggling students are referred to the Guidance Team. We identify the most significant barrier to student success. We develop a plan to address the barrier. We choose metrics to track the effectiveness of our plan. We document our interventions and meet regularly to track progress.
A teacher may bring a student to the team who’s reading below grade level. We review the student’s reading data. Perhaps we find evidence they need phonics support. We align our school’s resources- this student will meet with our reading specialist for an 8 week phonics intervention. This may lead to improved fluency and the student can then carry the meaning while reading. As a result, their reading comprehension improves. I’ve seen this happen. It demonstrates some of the best work a school can do.
It's a new school year. I'm teaching biology and chemistry, classes I have taught for years. This year, however, there is something new--this year, for the first time, my tenth graders are required to pass the Washington state biology end-of-course exam in order to graduate.
My concern is that a high stakes exam that focuses only on biology narrows the curriculum to the detriment of chemistry, physics, and earth science. The problem?
This summer, I've been participating in a book study about challenges in implementing Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. In that spirit, I sat down today to look at my scope and sequence for the classes I teach (Freshman English Lit and Comp). All along I've been saying to myself and others that this whole Common Core Standards shifting is no big deal: we're already doing that work, it's just a matter of identifying in those standards all the things we already do--we won't really have to do much that is "new."
As it turns out, this whole process really made me rethink what I teach and how I teach. I found that there were many standards which were addressed, reinforced, and assessed in basically every single unit of the sequence. I also found a few standards which never appeared more than once, buried as a footnote in some broader unit. More concerning: some of the projects and assessments that I and my students enjoy the most were supported by only tenuous connections (at best) to the standards.
This coming school year, I anticipate that many of my posts will reflect my process with the Common Core. Interestingly, when I try to characterize my feelings, the first word that pops into my head (however irrational this may be) is the word mourning. Some of those projects that kids seem to connect with so well lack strong connection to Common Core, even if they are the tasks that former students still recall to me ten years later. No matter how much I, or they, love the experience, these are the things I really need to examine and honestly assess whether they belong in my classroom under my new expectations.
As I try to help other teachers make this transition to the new standards, I need to remember that word that popped into my head. As I encounter resistance, I need to remember that isn't just about being "opposed to change." I need to remember that the first reaction when you are told to do something new might not actually be a reaction to that which is new, but rather a quick and confusing pang of loss for something deeply enjoyed that no longer seems to fit.
For several years, my building has been identifying and aligning curriculum to standards--first state standards and now Common Core Standards--with part of this process being the identification of the Power Standards! each unit of instruction is to focus upon.
Simultaneously, we are gearing up for a new teacher evaluation system which figures heavily on a teacher's ability to define what his/her students' learning targets are and assess and document student progress toward those targets.
To an extent, both have been an uneasy fit for me as a high school English teacher. It is not so much in the philosophies underpinning these movements. It is that no one that I talk to seems to understand what I've started calling "The English Problem."
Everyone has probably heard about, or actually read, the New York Times website article that discussed the supposed downward spiral of teacher morale. It highlighted how teachers working in struggling schools had the lowest morale, and the teachers with greater satisfaction tended to have "more opportunities for professional development, more time to prepare their lessons and greater parental involvement in their schools."
In my meetings and phone calls and emails and faxes (yep, faxes) with legislators the last few weeks, I've found myself repeating the phrase that I feel like I have "a target on my back and the blame for all society's ills on my shoulders." In quiet moments in the car or after my kids are in bed, I too have thought about what other jobs I could apply for.
But the next day, I walk into my classroom, close the door on it all, turn to face them and breathe a sigh of relief.
As I turned on my classroom lights this morning, I saw an envelope, sitting, in the middle of the floor. It was out of place. I paused as I picked it up, wondering. Someone had slipped the envelope under my door late last night (I left school at 6 pm) or the did so early this morning (I arrived at 7 am).
The note was from a former student. As I read, I was torn between the emotional beauty of being a teacher, and the sad reality of how Washington State views its teachers. I believe this is a feeling many teachers have had recently.
Today was the culmination of a decision I made sparked by authoring this post, titled "What to do when you need someone to tell you what to do." If you click back to that post, I lined out eight levels of involvement as an advocate for the education profession, and basically posed the question: "how do we move ourselves to the next step in advocating for students, teachers, and the profession as a whole?" Realizing that I needed to practice what I preached, I made the decision to participate in the February 20th WEA-NBCT political action day.
I realized that I was hovering in the lower levels, having occasionally crested as high as level six. Never, before today at least, had I set foot in any offices in Olympia to meet with senators or representatives. Before I reflect on my meetings, I have three simple take-aways from today:
1. This was way easier than I thought it would be.
2. This was easy because we have a system in Washington that seeks to amplify teacher voice.
Teacher evaluation is back on the radar. Senate Bill 5895 is due to be heard by the House Education Committee on February 16th (CSTP has produced a summary for quick review, but the whole bill is linked above).
One of the sticking points for me--of which there often many in any policy--has to do with the provision that at least three of the eight dimensions on which I am to be evaluated must be supported with student growth data.
There's that d-word again.
Luckily, I found language in the bill clarifying "student growth data":
The school of the future will not be housed on a cloud, or a floating pod. The school of the future will not have whole sides of buildings made out of windows, nor will students sit, discussing great works of literature through their hand-held discussion devices.
No, the school of the future is more real.
It IS attainable.
It IS possible.
The school if the future will have No Tardies, No Failing Students, and No Homework. The school of the future is only a few years away.
Each spring the uncertainties of student enrollment, teacher transfers or retirement, and funding make budgetary predictions difficult.
To remain financially sound some districts send out pink slips to the newest teachers. In no way is this ideal. These teachers face uncertainty about their employment future. Some of the district’s best teachers, who happen to be new hires, may not have their contracts renewed.
New legislation, yet to be introduced, may change how districts respond to RIFs. Instead of RIFs base on level of experience they may be based on a teacher’s evaluation relative to other teachers.
This bill, I assume, is in response to schools being unable to retain effective teachers when they are forced to lay off staff.
In 2009-2010, 3% of Washington’s teachers were given RIF notices. 87% of those teachers were recalled. Evidence does not suggest that the best and brightest young teachers are losing out to ineffective veterans.
Still, this idea is compelling. Shouldn’t the best teachers be the last ones to be laid off? Yes. If only it were that simple.
Distinguishing between the best and the worst teacher in a school may not be that difficult. But it is much more difficult to distinguish between the second and the third worst (one may keep their job while the other may not).
New evaluation systems are expected to have different criteria for novice and experienced teachers. Is a good novice teacher more effective than an average experienced teacher? Who wins in this RIF race a teacher with five years of solid student growth and one recent year of poor growth or the second year teacher with two years of average growth?
What are the recall rights for a RIFed teacher?
When the art program is cut can somebody determine the relative effectiveness between a high school and elementary art teacher?
The idea, keeping the best, is elegant. Implementing this idea? Not so much. Since relatively few new teachers actually lose positions this law is unlikely to result in an improved teaching force.
I'd like to see lawmakers put their efforts elsewhere. If lawmakers want to address the problems related to RIFs they should fulfill their paramount duty and fully fund education. And they should allow local school districts the time and space to implement the new evaluation criteria. Many stakeholders came together to put this evaluation model in place. Rolling out this system will be challenging. Rolling out this system while simultaneously addressing the complexities of a new model for RIFs seems unwise. But I'm no lawmaker...