Honestly, I expected more out of this legislative session. I didn’t expect the legislators to come up with a complete plan to fully fund education in this state. I’m not that sanguine. But I had hoped they would tweak things to make life better for those of us in the trenches. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of improvement. Bills died, and even the bill that made it to the governor’s desk didn’t offer much.
At least one bill that would have helped is now “X” filed, which means it’s dead. House Bill 1867 proposed that National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) do comprehensive evaluations every six years and Professional Certified teachers do them every four years—as long as teachers in both cases received a rating of 3 or above in their last comprehensive evaluation. I’d proposed a ten-year stretch between comprehensive evaluations for NBCTs, but I was happy to see people in the legislature acknowledge the need to:
- honor the National Board—and Professional Certification—process
- ease the amount of TPEP work principals have to do.
Our school has a crackerjack new principal this year. But she is running herself into the ground. I see her late at work, night after night. We constantly get email from her at ridiculously late hours. Last week as I left she bemoaned the fact that “I’m not getting to do the instructional leadership in this job I thought I was going to be able to do.”
Nope. She’s doing endless TPEP tasks—pre- and post-conferences, reviewing evidence, and writing evaluations.
House Bills 1737 and 2573 had to do with the teacher shortage, substitutes, and allowing retirees to work more days as substitutes. Those bills were both “X” filed too. However, Senate Bill 6455 said it was designed to expand the professional educator workforce, and it did include some employment opportunities for retirees. SB6455 made it to the governor’s desk. I read the senate bill with high hopes.
How does SB6455 go about recruiting teachers? First, it directs OSPI to have a better website for job openings and job applications with more information for people who might want to move to Washington to teach here. I had to laugh. Have we not been clear enough? The problem isn’t just that there aren’t enough teachers in the state, but there aren’t enough teachers currently in teacher training programs teachers. There aren’t enough teachers in the country. That issue hasn’t hit full force yet, but it will. In our school alone we had a support position that took over two months to fill; the position just sat empty for the first several weeks of school.
It seems like current teachers in Washington are watching the ocean water recede, so we holler to the legislature, “There is a tsunami on the way!” and the legislature goes out to have a picnic on the beach. They just aren’t getting how vast the problem is and how devastating it’s going to be.
Second, SB6455 directs the professional education standards board to recruit teachers, especially teachers from traditionally underrepresented groups, through every resource the legislators could think of to name, from OSPI to districts to major employers to “other parties.” Third, it makes it easier, I believe, to work on Professional Certification or National Board Certification while going to school and suggests provisions for out-of-state teachers. Fourth, it directs the standards board to offer an alternative route to teacher certification.
Ok, that’s the ticket. We are now going to have a flood of new candidates pouring into our state, demanding to be allowed to teach here. Our schools of education will be turning prospects away! I mean, wouldn’t those steps make you long to teach in Washington?
Somehow, I don’t think so. When I ask fifth graders what they want to be when they grow up, they say, “Computer programmer, video game designer, pro sport player, singer, veterinarian, architect, artist, novelist.” They go with their current passion. At eighteen, the first thing my daughter did was find out which jobs paid the most. Then she decided which jobs she liked out of those jobs. Because at 18, kids have a better sense of reality. They understand that they will have to pay bills.
If we want to recruit more students into teaching in general and to our state in particular, we need to concentrate on a few obvious things:
- pay (notice that “education” doesn’t even show up on Forbes’ list of top-paying jobs in the country)
- working conditions
- job satisfaction
These are the things that draw anyone to any job. I think our culture has traditionally relied on teachers rating “job satisfaction” high. Perhaps people decided the other three aren’t really important for teachers. I don’t think that attitude is going to work for recruiting new teachers, though.
(Did the senators even ask themselves what incentives would make them want to take a job?)
SB6455 does allow retired teachers to substitute for about 115 days each year. Again, I think we’ve been clear. We don’t have enough substitutes. In my building if we can’t get a substitute, we pull one of the specialists into the classroom—the PE teacher or music teacher or librarian. Of course, that means whatever class had PE or music or library that day loses that class. Because we don’t have enough substitutes.
Some of our favorite substitutes are our retired teachers. Many of them will work ONLY in their old school where they already know the routines, staff, and students. We don’t have to write detailed, comprehensive notes for them because they bring their encyclopedic background knowledge with them! I have to say, if they’re willing to work for the meager substitute pay they get, I’d let them work every single day they’re available to come in. And God bless them.
So what did we get out of this session? A few more days of retired teachers being able to substitute. And some—to me, anyway—highly amusing suggestions for how to get more teachers to work in our state. Certainly not what I hoped for.