Friday, June 5, 2009

Today's Article in the Variety

Good Morning all you hard working teachers!

Just thought I'd let you know there's an editorial in today's Variety regarding ACT, HQT and Praxis. (I had contacted Zaldy after his previous article asking the CNMI not to "dumb down" the scores.)

The article is an accurate accounting of some of our e-mail communications, however there are key points that were raised that were not reflected in the article. I'd like to provide those to you, in the event you wish to continue this debate amongst yourselves, or within the community.

1) The NCLB Act does not require the CNMI to establish HQT standards, as a Tier 3 entity we are exempt from this requirement. The standards and deadlines were established by the CNMI. (Only those paid by Title V funds must be HQT, this affects approximately 35 teachers total.)

2) In 41 out of 47 Praxis II exams the CNMI has set the passing score to be higher than the national average. The establishment of these scores was based upon "states in which residents of the CNMI are likely to relocate." (Whereas the passing scores for Praxis I were determined with a validation study conducted by NMC in coordination with PSS.)

Here’s the editorial as it appeared in today’s paper:


BETTY Miller, the hard-working president of the local teachers union, ACT, was kind enough to provide me with their group’s position on the BOE-PSS highly qualified teacher rule, which has become a contentious issue mainly because 33 percent of PSS teachers have yet to pass Praxis 2, one of the components of the HQT requirement.
ACT says the passing score for Praxis 2 is too high and the “penalty” — a pay cut — is too stiff. The group believes that passing Praxis does not “provide a full picture of teacher effectiveness.” In its excellent Power Point presentation, which is backed by hard data and research, ACT argues that the HQT mandate itself of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is problematic.
ACT, however, doesn’t explain why other professionals are required to pass board exams which, I’m sure, do not also “provide a full picture of their effectiveness.” In fact, these professionals have to pass board exams before they can practice their profession. Some PSS teachers who can’t pass Praxis have been teaching for years. Surely a reasonable person may assume that such teachers should pass an exam on subjects they are already teaching. Moreover, the bus has already left the station as far as the NCLB is concerned. It’s already the law of the land and PSS has to comply with it.
ACT says those who have not passed Praxis include veteran and therefore experienced teachers. Yet they can’t pass an exam that tests their teaching knowledge. Instead of terminating them, however, PSS continues to help these teachers pass Praxis. They have two more years to do so.
But ACT insists that the passing score is too high and its members have convinced BOE’s curriculum, instruction, and assessment committee to reconsider the passing scores for Praxis 2.
According to Betty, “teachers had no role in the development of a plan that affected each and every one of us. Our beef comes from the discovery that the actual requirements under NCLB were not necessarily those that had been presented to teachers and the general public. [T]eachers were told we ‘must’ do this under the NCLB Act. We were also told certain things were ‘not allowed’ (such as alternative methods for qualifying veteran teachers) when in fact several states were doing exactly that and it was allowable under the NCLB Act. Our beef comes from the fact that principals were encouraged to terminate non-HQT teachers during the budget crisis because they were led to believe we would lose federal funding if we continued to maintain these teachers in our rank and file. All along this was never the case. Our beef comes from feeling misled and misinformed.”
So how did this happen when there was supposed to be a teacher representative on the education board?
ACT talks about the morale of teachers. But what about the morale of parents? And what do we say to the students themselves? As I’ve told Betty, what are we telling students if their teachers have to lower standards? What is the “message” we’re sending out to kids who ought to look up to their teachers? It’s okay to fail tests — because we can always lower the passing grades later?
Betty assures me, however, that ACT is not proposing a lowering of standards.
“We believe teachers should still be held to standards of excellence when it comes to working with students,” she says. “However, we do propose a through review and adjustment of Praxis scores that may have been set unfairly in the first place.”
So I guess the ball is now with BOE and PSS — and with the parents. Parents must be involved in this policy discussion. Someone, in any case, must point out that one of the best ways to measure a teacher’s effectiveness is to see how her students are performing academically.
Everyone must remember that PSS is supposed to be producing students who will eventually enroll at U.S. colleges, find work at U.S. companies and live in U.S. communities. This should be the starting point of these discussions.
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