Updates/Answers about SB7 – Education reform legislation

The education reform package known as SB 7 was passed by the state Senate on April 14 and sent to the Illinois House for consideration.

SB 7 was developed during months of discussions involving a wide variety of education stakeholders including IEA, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union, along with school administrators, the state board of education, lawmakers and others, including the education reform groups Stand for Children and Advance Illinois.

The historic agreement has a number of provisions and IEA and its partners are working to address the many questions that have been raised this week.

For those with questions, the documents and videos below might be helpful.

Documents & Videos

Questions?

Send your questions about SB7 using the form below.

Responses for a general audience will be posted here. We will add to and update this information in the days to come.

Comments

  1. Linda Wegner says:

    I am trying to get more information, but… I don’t see how older teachers will be protected from administrators wanting to hold onto younger, cheaper staff. Performance evaluations can be skewed so that there won’t be a “tie break” situation where senority will count. Administrators can see to THAT. And how am I supposed to negotiate with these same administrators who will be evaluating me the next day?

  2. Glen Brown says:

    Dear Stakeholders of “Educational Reform”:

    In my classroom, students learn that I am passionate about searching for truth; that there exists a vast chasm between knowledge and belief; and that any method of investigative research should take on continuous questioning, re-evaluation, and revision. During classroom and online discussions, I enthusiastically posit controversial and contrary ideas to spur my students to inquiry and debate. In doing so, I hope to challenge and encourage each one of them to devote the time and energy necessary to think these matters through–without telling them what to think.

    In my classroom, I am a student. My students’ experience is the direct result of my own incessant learning: Plato, Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, and Camus, among so many others, show us that most truths are elusive and relative, that nearly all beliefs are fallible and provisional, and that both truth and belief require unrelenting proof and revision. With a fundamental commitment to human rights, founded on philosophical principles and ideals, I challenge my students–through literature, philosophy and poetry, and through their own writing–to pursue a life based on reason, logic, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, humility, integrity, dignity, social justice, responsibility, mutual respect, and life-long learning. Works, both classic and modern, are offered to explore concepts such as determinism, freedom of choice, the nature of reality, knowledge, ethics, and our moral responsibility towards one another and the rest of the natural world.

    I admit that my favorite authors reveal that we are each responsible for who we are and what we will become, and that the human experience is, consequently, complex and varied with many meanings because each one of us can create his or her future. These are the values at the center of my own web of beliefs. What I have learned about the craft of teaching after 37 years is that the teacher’s character and competency have a recurring and immeasurable impact on a student’s life and so, as I challenge my students, I must constantly challenge my own beliefs with rigorous inquiry, meta-cognition, and review.

    In my classroom, learning is a discovery process shaped by analysis, reflection, and application. We become aware that we are all learners. My goals as a teacher are to take a student’s potentiality and to make it an actuality; to teach my students to think and investigate critically, to question unremittingly, and to discover purpose through meaningful action. My students justify what they believe with evidence and describe how they arrived at their conclusions. They distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims. They determine the factual accuracy of their statements and learn to detect bias and fallacious reasoning commonly found in argumentation. They ask themselves why some beliefs, for instance, can be exempt from empirical confirmation while other beliefs undergo a posteriori proof. They examine their reasons for supporting their particular opinions and question the efficacy of their beliefs’ practices (because there are some dogmas that advocate violence, terrorism, subjugation, misogyny, ethnic cleansing, and racial hatred). I want my students to confront such thinking and impede those who hold such viewpoints. I want my students to be dynamic and to be appalled by hypocrisy and indifference, by arrogance and the unreasonable certainty that they or someone else might believe that he or she possesses the absolute truth.

    I hope Senate Bill 7 will protect a teacher’s security from arbitrary, capricious, or intentional dismissal procedures. I hope that SB 7 will be able to measure the effects that a teacher has on his or her students’ character, aspirations, responsibility, and moral and ethical values, that it will also provide provisions for measuring a teacher’s inspiration, dedication and passion that these influences have on a student. “Performance Counts” or “Accountability for All” cannot resolve the difficulties that teachers will invariably inherit. Why? Teachers do not work with “quantifiable outcomes.” As we all know, a teacher does not make a sale or earn a profit. A teacher works with children and young adults. There are no reliable tests, measures, and data for the indelible impressions that a teacher can leave on a student.

  3. Confused and concerned says:

    I was about to write that tenure has “clearly” been eliminated… however that is not the case. Tenure has been covertly eliminated. Here’s how: The district GIVES you 2 unsatisfactory evaluations. You plead your case to a highly trained hearing officer. The hearing officer finds that you should not be dismissed. The board disagrees with the hearing officer and releases a good veteran teacher anyway. The hearing officer’s decision is not binding. I know tenure is controversial but it allows teachers to collaborate with colleagues, take chances using new methods that may lead to great gains (but may take a year or 2 to implement at the most effective level), and to advocate for students. I am all for speeding up the process to get rid of bad teachers… but couldn’t the process move just as quickly and end with a binding decision from a highly qualified hearing officer?

    I realize there will be a second evaluator. What protection does this person have? If the administration tells him/her to give a teacher an unsatisfactory evaluation and they refuse… what kind of evaluation will he/she receive?

    • Response from the IEA Deputy General Counsel:

      As you state, the Hearing Officer will make findings of fact and a recommended decision whether the tenured teacher should be dismissed or retained. The school board will then make the decision to accept or reject the hearing officer’s recommendation, subject to court review.

      Under the new law, before making their decision, the board members must undergo a training to understand the new PERA evaluation system. If the board decides to terminate the teacher, the tenured teacher can have the decision reviewed in court. Under the old system (and non-PERA districts) that review first goes to the circuit (trial level) court with possible appeal to the appellate court. Under the new system, court review would go directly to the appellate court. Under the old/existing law, if the school district did not agree with the hearing officer’s decision, the district was able to seek review of the hearing officer’s decision in court.

      In both the old/existing system and under the newly proposed legislation, the court reviews the entire decision: not just whether proper procedures were followed, but also the facts and the determination whether the facts establish that the teacher should be dismissed.

      Under the old/existing system, when teachers were successful in court review, it was more often than not a challenge to whether the district followed the procedures required by law. Teachers were less successful under the old/existing system in court review where the procedure was found to be acceptable. That is, the courts gave great deference to the school board’s decision regarding performance deserving of termination.

      Said another way, teachers have always been more successful in reversing dismissals when they have been able to show the proper procedures were not followed and show that the district did not give them a fair opportunity to prove their case or demonstrate they were good performers.

      SB7 and the new PERA law both strength the process the district must follow BEFORE deciding to dismiss a teacher. That legislation also will require a more accurate assessment of performance and greater training in teacher assessment by evaluators, school board and hearing officer.

  4. From the Ed Reform bill:
    Contracts in place prior to January 1, 2011 remain in effect either for two years or the expiration of the CBA, whichever comes first

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??

    • From the fact sheet: “Existing collective bargaining agreements with RIF sequence language will be grandfathered until expiration, or until June 30, 2013, whichever comes sooner.”

  5. Freddie Hatfill says:

    Tenure has not been eliminated nor has the union been “busted”. Tenure still means what it has always meant – due process rights. If this law passes it won’t be any easier to dismiss a tenured teacher for a poor evaluation then it was before. The district still has to provide a remediation period, they still have to prove their case in front of an independent hearing officer. It won’t take as long as it does now. And that’s in the teacher’s best interest because the current law says that any teacher who has been dismissed does not get paid while he is fighting the dismissal. So the sooner the teacher knows he or she is coming back, the better.

    And there is more accountability for principals. They will have to pass a pre-certification test before they will be able to evaluate starting in 2012. This is for all evaluators. If they don’t pass, they can’t evaluate.

  6. Tenure has not been eliminated. In fact, in SB7, tenure may be acquired in 3 years rather than 4; there is also language dealing with tenure portability for a change. Dismissal protections are still there. Our voices have NOT been stifled. When the PERA law is fully implemented, evaluations will be less “political” than they have been in the past.

    • What is in the law that says that evaluations will be fair? What in the law prevents evaluations from being dishonest? What in the law protects veteran teachers from being given lower evaluations than they deserve? What part of the law says that there will be oversight of these evaluations? Being certified does not mean that an evaluator will not be dishonest in how she or he evaluates a teacher. If it is in the law that there is strong recourse or consequences, that is another matter. Where is it?

      • Freddie Hatfill says:

        Ann, in this new law, if passed, there is a provision that protects against the administration lowering ratings to make high paid, more experienced teachers more vulnerable to RIF.

        It isn’t any easier to “fire” teachers than it was before, it will just take less time to go through the prcess which is in everyone’s best interest, because both the teacher and the district need to know if the teacher is going to win their case. In the PERA law, that was passed last year, beginning in 2012 ALL evaluators will have to pass a pre-certification assessment before they can evaluate. If they don’t pass, they can’t evaluate!

        They also have to go through rigorous training which has never before been in the law. Principals will have to be evaluated annually, which was also passed in the PERA law last year. I am a 28 year veteran and have full confidence that this new law, if passed, will serve its purpose.

        I appreciate everything Mitch Roth, IEA Legal Counsel, Audrey Soglin, IEA Executive Director as well as the leadership of IFT and CTU for everything they did in preparing this language. If the Performance Counts law would have passed, we would be singing a totally different tune!

  7. Not me. I’m one of those teachers in IEA that Ken has outcasted as “traditional”.

    I find it odd also that you can’t find any information on this website prior to any action being taken on the giving away of teacher rights. After the deals are made though the site is LOADED with information.

    • Freddie Hatfill says:

      Well Jerry, I find it odd that you are saying that you couldn’t find any information on this website prior to any action being taken. “Accountability for All” was released in January and since it’s release has been explained in detail on this website as well as discussed at this year’s IEA’s Representative Assembly. IEA has been very upfront along with IFT and CTU. I’ve been hearing about it and reading about it since January.

  8. The union has basically been busted without saying that. Tenure has also been eliminated without saying that too. How will unions be able to protect teachers from being dismissed? They can’t. Now teachers will not be able to speak their minds because the “squeaky wheels” will be first to go. There is too much subjectivity in the evaluation process. They say that you will be evaluated on evidence but they can make the evidence show whatever they want it to show. I have seen this happen.

    I know many teachers who are not happy with this outcome because they feel the union did not really stand up for them.

    • Concerned Teachers Spouse says:

      I’m also concerned that new proposals will allow Districts to easily reduce costs~ by selectively eliminating teachers near the top of the pay scale whenever a minor infraction goes on their record. The way I read it…. a teacher with 20 years of excellent reviews means nothing— undr this new hammered out agreement—, only that Teacher’s last 4 or 5 years evaluations go into a dismissal hearing!! Two called strikes & Adios! Could this scenario happen– new principal + orders from District Office to lower costs result in a Teacher to be written up for several minor infractions– then these are used to replace said teacher for a “freshie right out of Iowa State”??

  9. Nancy Miller says:

    Audrey Soglin and Mitch Roth deserve a HUGE thank you from every teacher in this state – not just IEA members, IFT and CTU as well. Without the two of them fighting for every teacher in this state, we would not have seen the results we saw. You both should take a well deserved vacation!

  10. Terry Waldron says:

    Personally I see this as a victory for IEA and our brothers and sisters in IFT and CTU. We managed to fight off the outside interests and preserve our bargaining rights. By working together, and kudos to Senator Lightford, we have shown why Wisconsin legislators found safe harbor in Illinois.
    I can’t thank Mitch Roth and Audrey Soglin enough…when the smoke clears we’ll all know how respected they are for the work they put into SB7.