Nate Smith-Tyge (@smithtyge):
In case you missed it on Off The Record last Friday Rep. Tim Kelly (R- Saginaw Township), chair of the House School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee (the subcommittee that sets the per/pupil foundation allowance for local districts), said that Detroit Public Schools had "their shot" and lost it and should be dissolved. Rep. Kelly also called for vouchers, although he refused to call them vouchers, at least Tim Skubick called him on that doublespeak. So, the person in charge of funding schools in the State House of Representatives thinks that DPS had their shot (evidently a constant string of state takeovers of the district since the mid-1990s with one brief hiatus of 2+ years is the residents of Detroit getting "their shot" in his man's mind) and that we should have "publicly funded but not necessarily publicly delivered education" in Michigan. Just another reflection of the truly perilous position public education is in Michigan under Snyder and Legislative Republicans.
Yes, it appears that Dick and Betsy Devos and their little operation at the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) have found their man in Tim Kelly. Mr. Kelly is no stranger to Republican and corporate education "reform" as he moved to Michigan twenty years ago to be John Engler's education policy adviser. Now we might ask what does a former asphalt salesman with a degree in Mass Communications know about education? Aside from the obvious answer of not much, Mr. Kelly really is a case study of the corporate education reform movement's typical talking head. After working in the family business he was hired by Evan Bayh (every Republican's favorite Democrat) to work in workforce development and vocational training programs. He then moved to Michigan to work on education policy for John Engler and has pretty much been in the Engler-DeVos-Snyder anti-public school camp ever since. He's also heavily involved in Catholic schools in the Saginaw area, so that helps to explain his love of vouchers (that darn Constitution and voters hamstringing his pals at Nouvel from getting free money like all his pals at the for-profit charters). Mr. Kelly has no background in education or experience in research and a clear ideological agenda to pursue - what a combination. And did I mention he'd like to be the House Republican leader next session?
In case you're not agitated enough, let me also mention that the House Education Committee has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow at 8am to review Senator Pavlov's teacher evaluation bills (SB 0103). Much has been made of the lack of a consistent state-wide evaluation tool in this bill and that discussion has some merit. Should we allow local districts to tailor teacher evaluation and improvement to local needs or does a consistent state-wide system work better? The research is not clear on this topic but it is clear that peer observation and evaluation couple with meaningful support and improvement systems lead to better teaching. I'm less concerned with having a state-wide rubric than I am with having every teacher supported in their professional development by peers and administrators that make the evaluation a learning process rather than a system of punishment and reward. It takes time and support to develop into a great teacher and we lose too many teachers early in their careers because they do not get the support they need.
Educators supporting educators and helping to improve skills is what the process should be about and that is what we must work to ensure the state does. This means removing tests from the evaluation process altogether. Tests are not designed to evaluate teacher effectiveness. I believe (and almost all research supports) that we should have limited standardized testing and use the data generated only for it's intended and predicatively valid purposes. This also means that if the state does allow local control of evaluation tools that these must be approved by the professionals in the Michigan Department of Education, not the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Educators not IT people and budget analysts should be evaluating teacher evaluation models - it's really sad this is even an issue. But it is part of the Snyder agenda to move control of all education matters away from the MDE and State Board of Education. Nick has outlined how these maneuvers by Snyder and the Legislature (including SB 103) are violations of the State Constitution - it's well worth the read.
So, if you can make it to Lansing tomorrow morning at 8am, stop by and share your opinions with your elected representatives.