Superintendent Tom Luna replied back to me regarding my recent OpEd article which laid out my concern about the proposed tiered teacher certification and value added model.
I do have a follow up commentary planned for his response soon, but for today I’ll let him speak for himself. His response, in full, is below.
Hello Mr. Cavener, and thank you for reaching out to discuss this very important issue further. I appreciate your passion and hope my response helps alleviate your concerns about the considerations being made for reform of Idaho’s teacher certification system.
I understand your concerns over the Value Added Model (VAM) relative to populations with special needs. I share your understanding that these students are not expected to make the same growth as their peers without defined special needs. You’ve outlined a key misconception under tiered teacher certification that I hope I can help with, that students with special needs will be expected to make the same growth as their peers. As you mentioned, this group is, by definition, likely to struggle to display developmentally appropriate growth. It would be very wrong of anyone to expect such growth, given those special needs.
The technical advisory committee’s (TAC) current direction includes the district signing off on a “district recommendation” form for Tier 2 licensure (Tier 3 has yet to be defined clearly) just as we ask our universities to do now for initial certification. As you know, IEP goals are developed by a team, where the special needs are addressed and realistic goals are outlined. If the Smarter Balanced Assessment pertains to these goals, given that it is a standards-based test and teachers work very hard to help all students meet those standards, it is one measure a district will use to help inform their decision to recommend movement in the tiered licensure/career ladder system. This should only be done, however, with the IEP goals in mind. Districts not willing to sign off that a student has made adequate growth toward those IEP goals (assuming he/she has made that growth) because the student didn’t make adequate growth expected for a student without exceptionalities would have mistaken the process. This is why an appeal process is also being developed, to catch any (predicted or unforeseen) snags in the system and address them so they don’t adversely affect students or teachers.
In the article, concerns were raised that this would be a particularly difficult system for teachers of students with exceptionalities. That is certainly not our goal, as high-quality special educators are not easy to come by (or keep), yet serve our neediest students. We will expect teachers to identify students’ baseline data, set goals for improvement, set instructional strategies to meet those goals, and monitor progress toward them, already a formal process in the world of special education. The best special education teachers will be leaders in this arena in Idaho.
I hope I’ve helped clarify the misconceptions, and welcome further questions/discussion.
He also asked me to share this link to the State Dept. of Ed’s current information on the proposed tiered model.