Idaho’s teachers are the new working poor

Levi B Cavener

Idaho delayed implementation of raising base salary for Gem State educators to $40,000 this year.  Instead, Governor Little lobbied to raise it to only $38,500 with a promise to reaching the $40,000 benchmark next year.

And although much has been made of increasing base salaries of Idaho’s teachers through the tiered licensure initiative, recent work by the Idaho Education Association showed that when adjusted for inflation, Idaho’s teachers have actually lost 6.9% of their compensation when adjusted for inflation in comparison to ten years ago.  We are losing ground, not gaining it.  

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An Open Letter and a Petition

Here is the open letter  I sent to every member of the house/senate committee members, the State Board of Education, and the Governor’s office.

Please take the time to sign this petition to help pressure those folks in making reasonable changes to the current Master Educator Premium in order alleviate the current exceptional onerous process of applying which leaves many Jedi quality educators behind.

Sign the petition now!

An Open Letter to the Idaho Legislature, State Board of Education, and Governor’s office.

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A (Better) Response from the State Board of Education Regarding Master Educator Premiums

By Levi B Cavener (Note, the following is intended to be satirical)

Levi B Cavener

Executive Director Matt Freeman of the State Board of Education shared a piece in which he suggested that educators need to be better informed of facts regarding Master Educator Premiums.  My “teacher-mode” kicked in while reading his editorial, and I have made some revisions to his writing which I have shared below: (Note, the following are my words, not Director Freeman’s.  We can only wish the SBE could treat teachers this way).

First, I want to issue the most pleasant of greetings to Idaho’s teachers during this summer.  I know this message will find Gem State Educators all across the country taking professional development, university courses, advanced placement training, etc.  I appreciate how Idaho leads the nation in its teachers taking unpaid time in order to benefit their students.

I want you to know that the State Board of Education is listening to the conversation and frustration of Idaho’s teachers regarding the Master Educator Premium program which has its first submissions due at the end of this month.  We believe leadership starts at the top, which is why SBE President Critchfield has instructed all SBE members and staff to develop a portfolio of their own in order to demonstrate our mastery in leading Idaho’s education system.

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The State Board Can Keep My Blackbelt and The Master Educator Premium

By Levi B Cavener

The State Board has set the end of June for the Gem State’s teachers to submit Master Educator Portfolios in the hopes of earning their blackbelts.  I am hopeful that many teachers in Idaho will be dutifully awarded this distinguishment as those portfolios are evaluated.

But I won’t be one of them.  See, like most teachers I would consider to be Jedi Master quality, I don’t have time to crunch the keyboard for days filling out an enormous application.  Instead, I suspect I am not alone in the Gem State in filling my days full of activities that will actually improve my students’ instruction in lieu of filling out paperwork in hopes of a minor pay bump. Continue reading

Democrats Have Financial Edge in Supt. Election Fundraising

Cindy Wilson. Boise School teacher seeking Democratic nomination

In a surprising twist, Idaho’s Secretary of State reported today that Idaho’s Democratic challenger for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindi Wilson has a substantial edge over her GOP opponents.

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El Chapo’s Gem State Money Laundering School Voucher Bill

By Levi Cavener

Cavener_Levi_HeadshotYou wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, had tutilege from a drug cartel’s money launderer while he was drafting the school voucher bill passed by Idaho’s house last week.  A cursory read of the legislation makes it painfully obvious what the proposed law really is: a money laundering scheme.

The goal of money laundering, of course, is to conceal the origin of dollars.  Except, in this case, the origin of the money is painfully obvious and the purpose of the legislation is also equally so.  See, here’s the deal: Article Nine, Section Five of Idaho’s Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the state cannot distribute money to sectarian entities. Continue reading

Proposal Eliminates IRI From Teacher Evaluations

The IRI, or Idaho Reading Indicator, will be removed from the state’s list of acceptable measures to use when determining if a teacher is producing measurable student achievement increases.

Rep. Julie VanOrden (R-Pingree)

Rep. Julie VanOrden’s proposal acknowledges that the IRI is “a reading skills screener,” and not a measure of student growth in achievement. As such, it’s use in future teacher evaluations would be prohibited if her bill is successful.

The IRI is given to K-3 students in the fall and spring of each academic year. Depending on the grade, it assesses letter name fluency, letter sound fluency, and Oral Reading Passage Fluency.

The IRI also sets target values for fall and spring each year. Obviously, a teacher serving difficult populations of students might not reach the target value even though they generated substantial growth during the academic year.

Thus the concern with a school or district which chooses to use the IRI as a student achievement indicator as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Such a move, nearly by definition, guarantees low marks for teachers serving English Language Learners, special education, and free/reduced lunch students who are statistically less likely to reach set target proficiency values.

Which is why VanOrden wants to eliminate the use of the measure in teacher evaluations. The bill leaves intact over a dozen other measures that can be used instead.

It is interesting, however, that this logic was not extended to the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) which continues to be on the list of approved measures in the bill.

Like the IRI, the ISAT measures set proficiency targets, not student growth. For all the same reasons as the IRI, the use of such a measure in a teacher’s evaluation blindly punishes teachers working with difficult populations of students who, again, are statistically unlikely to reach set proficiency target values.

Perhaps, VanOrden’s philosophy here is one of baby steps. Depending on the action this bill sees might be indicative of a future effort to also remove the ISAT from the list for all the same reasons.