Leader of the Senate, Del Marsh of Anniston, says there are “misconceptions” about the RAISE Act he is sponsoring.  For instance, he says that the latest version does not link teacher pay to student performance.   He is right, that has been eliminated from earlier drafts of the bill.

However, he fails to mention that the bill still uses the highly controversial Value Added Modeling  (VAM) to evaluate teachers and then rank them into one of five categories.  Or that tenure can be revoked based on this ratings. Or that from 35 to 50 percent of year-end teacher evaluation scores will be based on student test scores.  Or that student surveys will make up five to ten percent of teacher evaluations from third through twelve grade.  (Maybe we should get some third-graders to turn in surveys rating the legislature after a field trip to Montgomery?)

He fails to mention that the most recent bill will use “a statistical growth model used to isolate the effect and impact of a teacher on student’s learning, controlling for pre-exiting characteristics of a student, including, but not limited to, prior achievement.”
While no language in the bill refers to VAM, the just mentioned description is VAM thorough and through.

And why would Senator March advocate strongly for methodology about which the  American Statistical Association says,  “The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences. The VAM scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling.

So while the Senator claims the public has misconceptions of his bill, he is rather disingenuous by ignoring some of the other reasons why educators have rallied so vigorously against the bill.  Things he has left intact.

Recently Senator Marsh appeared on the Alabama Public Television show Capitol Journal to discuss RAISE.  Again, he picked his words carefully and skirted major issues.  For example, he said that he talked to the Alabama Education Association, the School Superintendents Association, the School Board Association and StudentsFirst about RAISE.  But he did not say WHEN he talked to them.

From all I can gather, he only talked to the Alabama-based groups AFTER the first draft was completed.  As to the California-based group StudentsFirst, apparently they had input from the get go on this bill.  Since they gave the Marsh re-election campaign $20,000 in 2014, maybe they just bought a seat at the table.

The most interesting segment of Senator Marsh’s appearance on Capitol Journal was when he talked about why he took performance pay for teachers out of the previous RAISE bill.  This came after he visited a middle school in his home county, saw what the school is doing and listened to teachers and the principal talk about how performance pay would be extremely detrimental to the team concept they work so hard to foster.

Imagine that, a politician finally decided to listen to Alabama educators instead of lobbyists from California.

Now THERE is a misconception worth talking about.  The misconception that folks from outside Alabama know more about what works in our classrooms than our own educators do.

At this point the only real misconception involving RAISE is that Senator Marsh still thinks it has merit.