That phrase “collaborative effort” coupled with “agreement” isn’t often heard where education legislation is concerned in Alabama. That’s what makes this outcome worth mentioning.
Dr. Mark Kirkemier, the Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) Coordinator of Educator Effectiveness, said this afternoon that the latest version of the PREP Act, a substitute bill expected to be introduced by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) on the floor of the Senate, mirrors what the state’s Educator Effectiveness (EE) model requires for teacher evaluation.
While Marsh’s bill covers a lot of ground, including tenure reform, incentives for teachers to teach in hard-to-staff areas, and rewards for schools that show improvement, Kirkemier was clear that he could only speak to the teacher evaluation portion of the bill.
According to Kirkemier, after testifying at the public hearing where the Senate Education and Youth Affairs committee passed the initial version of Marsh’s bill on March 8, Marsh reached out to Kirkemier, and the two men and their staffs worked together for more than two weeks to build consensus on the teacher evaluation portion the bill.
During their meetings, Kirkemier said Marsh clearly conveyed that he wants to work collaboratively with the ALSDE and the state board of education and to support the work educators are doing. He said it was clear that Marsh had “good intentions” and exhibited the collaborative spirit needed to work together.
Kirkemier said he is very proud of the work they accomplished together, calling the final product a “big piece of work”.
“We had some really really good discussions,” he said, adding, “if you look at the bill that came out of committee and you look at the sub, you can see the quality of work that was done, comparing the two.”
Much of the original push-back from the education community was due to educators’ perceptions that the PREP Act basically threw out the two years of work done by educators across the state to create the EE model. The entirety of that work is now embodied in that draft substitute bill, according to Kirkemier.
To be clear, the ALSDE has neither endorsed nor publicly supported the PREP Act.
Kirkemier said he couldn’t speak to why education groups haven’t given their support to the teacher evaluation portion of the bill, but he believes the portion of the final product (the draft of the expected substitute bill he has seen) dealing with the teacher evaluation process honors the work that the state design committee over a two-year period did to create the EE model, which is focused on helping teachers grow and become better at the craft of teaching.
Regarding the collaborative effort between the ALSDE and the legislature, Kirkemier said, “The work that we did collectively, collaboratively, in the spirit of what is best for children and teachers, I feel like we came to some common ground. Everybody felt good about the work. This [collaborative effort] is how this [process] ought to work. Everybody ought to sit down….and work through this. It was very productive. I really was proud of the work that we did and how far we came from where the original bill was filed and where we are now. I felt like it was the right thing for the children of the state of Alabama.”
A draft of the substitute bill has been floated around, but has not yet been introduced.
We were unable to secure comment from Sen. Marsh’s office prior to the time of publication.
[If you’re wondering why this is news, you haven’t picked up on the tense relationship between educators and legislators in Alabama. That the two groups would work together on such an important and influential piece of legislation counts as news for us here at the Alabama School Connection.]