Monday, May 9, 2011

Teachers and testing: Tune in Tuesday

If you're following the ongoing drama over Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' quest to roll out lots of new tests and use them to size up teacher effectiveness, you might want to watch Tuesday's school board meeting. The board is scheduled to get a report on "feedback received; lessons learned; and process activities/doings" related to teacher effectiveness. It's fairly late on the agenda, after the budget vote. Remember you can watch the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, on CMS-TV Cable 3 or on the web.

Meanwhile, rumors about performance pay are flying. School board candidate DeShauna McLamb emailed Friday saying four board members had agreed to vote Tuesday to rescind support for the controversial House Bill 546, which would grant the CMS board authority to launch performance pay without a teacher vote. There's nothing about the bill on the agenda, and board Chair Eric Davis said late Friday afternoon he'd gotten no request to add it. But the board can revise its agenda before meetings.

The N.C. House approved the bill last week. Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who introduced it, and CMS leaders, who requested it, agreed to "park" the bill -- in other words, keep it from moving through the state Senate -- until CMS can make another stab at garnering support from teachers and parents, who flooded representatives with protests.

On Friday, a reader asked about another email circulating, saying state Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican, planned to rush the bill into the Senate. Not so, Rucho said: "I don't have any plans to do anything with it. As far as I know, it's going to be sitting in Rules until there's some discussion."

So, are the bill's backers planning to pull a fast one and sneak it through the Senate? Are opponents exaggerating that threat?

Short answer is I don't know; neither side is consulting me on strategy. But here are some reasonable observations: It is technically correct to say that neither Samuelson nor CMS can control what the Senate does. Opponents probably want to keep the protest momentum going, so they're motivated to urge people to contact senators immediately.

Supporters of the bill would seem to benefit more from letting things cool down. The school year is drawing to a close, the budget is demanding attention and parents will be less focused on testing after this year's exams end in June. Rushing the bill to a vote would draw attention and scream bad faith. Waiting until  summer would seem to be a much smarter plan.

Maybe we'll know more about what CMS leaders are thinking after Tuesday's report.

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