Senate Bill 1 amendments are introduced, but we’re still waiting to see them

Apparently it was wishful thinking for School Matters to believe that Indiana legislators would let us all know Monday exactly how they are reshaping Senate Bill 1, which changes teacher evaluations and tenure protections and institutes merit pay.

Amendments were introduced when the House Education Committee considered the bill on Monday. But they haven’t been posted to the legislature’s website; the version of SB 1 that appears on the site hasn’t been updated since Feb. 16.

According to Tosha Salyers, director of educator outreach with the Indiana Department of Education, the amendments may not be posted until the end of this week. But the Indianapolis Star reports the committee is expected to vote on the amended bill today.

The Star’s Scott Elliott does provide an account of Monday’s committee meeting in today’s paper, so it’s not as if we have to be totally in the dark. And Salyers of the DOE offers a summary of what some of the amendments will do. For example, they clarify that teacher salaries won’t be cut, let school corporations count experience and advanced degrees as the basis for 33 percent of a teacher’s raise, and end “last in, first out” criteria for teacher layoffs.

Some of the changes appear to be positive steps made in response to concerns about the version of the bill passed by the Senate. But it would still be helpful to see the actual language of the amendments.

Putting a dollar value on teacher effectiveness

School Matters has cited Stanford researcher Eric Hanushek several times to debunk the claim – made by Gov. Mitch Daniels, state Superintendent Tony Bennett and the Indiana office of Stand for Children – that teachers have 20 times more impact on student learning than any other factor, including poverty.

So it’s only fair to point out that Hanushek advocates the thrust of Senate Bill 1: rewarding good teachers and making bad teachers improve or get out.

In an Education Week article, Hanushek puts the teacher effect in economic terms. “By conservative estimates, the teacher in the top 15 percent of quality can, in one year, add more than $20,000 to a student’s lifetime earnings, my research found,” he writes. “ … For a class of 20 students, we see that this very good teacher is adding some $400,000 in value to the economy each year.”

Skeptics would point to studies that suggest a teacher who is in the top 15 percent of quality this year may be in the middle next year, and a teacher who’s at the bottom this year may do much better next year. Tweak the formula for measuring quality and you get very different results.

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