Thursday, October 15, 2015

State Legislation: Thank You, Local School Boards, Superintendents, Representatives

I think I would be remiss if I didn't thank the school board and superintendent (and, in fact, not just of Ann Arbor, but of Lincoln schools and maybe some other local ones as well), for taking policy issues to the legislators.

1. Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift testified at a Senate Committee hearing against the idea of having guns, whether open carry or concealed carry, in schools. 

Here is an excerpt of her statement:
My remarks today are directed specifically toward the question of allowing concealed carry in pre K-12 schools.  
We recognize the proposed legislation is considered by some as a ‘fix,’ a compromise, an effective way to close the ‘open carry loophole’ that currently exists in Michigan law. Clearly, some consider ‘concealed carry’ as an improvement over ‘open carry.’ 
We understand that the stated intent of the legislation may in part be designed to remove the concerns with weapons that are visibly displayed in school and so prove a disruption to ensuring a safe, secure, learning environment. However, it is overwhelmingly clear that guns, visible or concealed, pose a significant risk to the safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and families at school.
You should read the rest, because Dr. Swift gives some shocking examples that happened in real life, that explain why guns in schools are a bad idea.

2. On the "third grade retention bill," which would provide interventions for struggling readers but also would require kids to be retained, the bill has passed out of the House more or less on party lines. My representative, Adam Zemke, originally was a co-sponsor but withdrew his support. According to this article,

The proposal was approved in a 57-48 vote, mostly along party lines, and now heads to the Senate. Democratic Rep. Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor, an original co-sponsor of the bill and key player in negotiations, withdrew support on the floor and removed his name from the measure.
Zemke had proposed an amendment to allow struggling readers to advance to fourth grade if they were working to improve under an individualized reading plan and had support from school administrators and parents. The amendment was rejected.
"This bill, without that amendment, then tells Johnny none of that (work) matters," Zemke said. "We're going to hold you back regardless. I am not going to remove the hope of a 9-year-old, period."

Thank you Lincoln Consolidated Schools Board for opposing this bill!
Thank you, Representative Zemke! The bill now goes to the Senate.

The bills go to the Senate next. The Capitol is
pretty. What's going on inside? Not so much.

3. The Teacher Evaluation bill passed the House. It's better than it was, but it's still (in  my opinion) bad, and I appreciate Rep. Jeff Irwin's opposition to this bill. He wrote on facebook:

I also have concerns about SB 103, the educator evaluation policy. My opposition stems in part from my opposition to the changes made to the tenure act in 2011. But, my opposition is deeper than my desire to stunt the effect of those changes. Mainly, I'm opposed to the bill because it accepts the toxic notion that education will be improved by more testing and more motivation for the teachers. This bill accelerates the problem we have with teaching to the test. If we want educators to teach to the test, the best way is to approve legislation like this that bases their employment and promotion on testing.
Also, I don't think the tests we're mandating produce consistent and reliable results. In other states that have adopted similar policies relying on testing growth (or value added), teachers are rated highly effective one year and then ineffective the next. The assessments bounce all over and this legislation will provide unreliable information to parents and school leaders. Our students and educators d
eserve better. 
(Emphasis added.)
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