Dear Senator Marsh:
You were on APTV’s Capitol Journal last Friday night to talk about the RAISE/PREP bill. It so happened that this was also April Fool’s Day and the longer I listened to you, the more I thought you were simply keeping in the spirit of April 1 by saying things that were basically unbelievable.
And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think this had to be the case. You are a smart guy and a successful businessman. You don’t become President Pro Tem of the senate without being considered a successful politician.
Given this, there is no way you say some of what you said on TV and really believe it yourself. You were pulling our leg weren’t you?
For instance, you talked about teachers getting a “big pay increase” and how you would have a problem supporting that without the PREP act being passed. Surely you know that teachers have had only a two percent pay raise since 2008-09 school year and that the House has approved a four percent raise in their current education budget. So this would be six percent in eight years. No way you think this is a “big pay increase.”
And you do know about big increases because records show that your chief of staff has gotten $95,000 in raises in the last five years.
You also trotted out the very tired argument about Alabama NAEP scores, even though you seemed unsure of exactly what they are. So let me explain. NAEP stands for National Assessment of Education Progress. This test is only given every two years to a small, random group of students. This means we test about 2,500 students in Alabama in 4th and 8th grades. Since there are 730,000 students in our public schools, we are judging all of them based on a sample of .003 percent of them.
You fussed that our scores dropped slightly in 2015. They did. They went down two points in 4th grade reading and math in 8th grade math from 2013. But guess what? Scores also fell in 16 states last year in 4th grade reading and math and in 22 states in 8th grade math. So Alabama was hardly an aberration.
But Senator Marsh, you know as well as I do that one test does not measure a trend. It only measures that moment, just like the score at halftime does not tell us who won the game.
You and I both went to Auburn. Remember the 2010 Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa? Remember when Auburn fell behind 24-0. Things looked bleak for our Tigers. The final scores that day. Auburn 28, Alabama 27.
Aren’t you glad we played an entire game, not just one half?
So why do you insist on looking at just part of the game regarding NAEP, instead of the entire game? If you would, as I pointed out here and here, you would learn that Alabama GAINS in NAEP scores have gone up faster than the national average in both 4th and 8th grade reading and math since we began using this test in 1992.
Since I seriously doubt that you measured how your company did on just one day’s sales, you were obliviously just kidding when your suggested that’s what we do with NAEP.
You said on TV that you have been “amazed” at the pushback from educators about this bill and that this is being orchestrated by the Alabama Education Association. Now THAT IS news to me. The Mobile County school board went on record opposing PREP. How many of them belong to AEA? State teacher of the year Jennifer Brown has been vocal in her opposition. She is not a member of AEA. Tallapoosa superintendent Joe Windle opposes this bill. AEA does not push his buttons. I have written a number of articles opposing RAISE/PREP. I have never been an AEA member. Neither am I on their payroll as some folks want to think, not do they tell me what to write about.
Again, I know that you must have been having some fun with the viewers by talking about NAEP and AEA.
Senator, educators oppose this legislation because it is BAD. It is bad for students, teachers and schools. It is an unfunded mandate that will once again take millions of dollars from local school systems to implement.
You continue to insist that teachers be evaluated with a system known as VAM. The same one that the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association warn us about using. The same one that has been litigated in state after state because it is unreliable. The same one other southern states are now cutting back on using.
No way would you install a new process in your company that has this many red flags attached.
You told Don Dailey, the host of Capitol Journal, that the PREP teacher evaluation system “mirrors” the one being implemented by the state. If that is the case, then why are you wanting to reinvent the wheel and duplicate it? Your party is supposed to be for LESS bureaucracy–not more.
You also said that you wanted a “public outcry” about public education in this state. Seems to me that is what you are getting. Some 5,000 people opposing the RAISE act signed an on-line petition. Seems like an outcry to me. The problem is that you don’t want an outcry from folks who spend all their time in classrooms and actually know what they are talking about when it comes to education.
Instead, you go on TV and talk about how our “system is failing,” that we are getting a “dismal performance” from our schools and that you are not impressed that we now have the highest graduation rate in state history.
You said repeatedly that “only 15 percent of high school grads are ready for college.” Yet you are apparently the only person privy to such information as I can’t find anyone in education who knows where this number comes from.
Finally, you said that if PREP isn’t passed you will spend your time preaching about the problems we have in education in this state.
Here is our mutual friend Jennifer Brown’s response to this. “If the PREP bill is passed in its current form, I will spend my time preaching about the problems we have in in Montgomery which I hope lead to a public outcry so we can make significant changes at the Statehouse.”
You ended your appearance on TV last Friday by saying you want to have a debate. Great idea. I suggest you call Don Dailey and schedule one between yourself and Jennifer on his program. His number is: 334-694-5874.
Now, April Fools or not, that is one show I would love to watch.