Teacher evaluation bill shows diverse groups can work together

Rep. Roebuck at the state Capitol.

My column this week is about Act 1209, a law passed during this past Arkansas legislative session that created the Teacher Excellence and Support System, a process statewide for schools to evaluate teachers.

The law requires evaluators to sit through at least 75 percent of a class period (as opposed to sticking their head in the door) and to counsel teachers afterwards based on that visit as well as on other external measurements. That includes student test scores when considered as part of what the law calls “trend data” and not a single exam.

Just as important as the law is the way it was passed. Instead of rushing through the process, as happens with some of the other 1,241 laws passed this session, the law’s sponsor, Rep. Johnnie Roebuck, D-Arkadelphia, engaged a diverse group of people who often don’t agree with each other. That included business-oriented school reform groups, the Arkansas Education Association (the closest thing the state has to a teacher’s union), the Arkansas School Boards Association, the Arkansas Educational Administrators Association, and the Department of Education. Over the course of several months, the groups hashed out their differences in sometimes passionate negotiations and eventually came up with a bill they all liked.

Isn’t working together and coming up with a consensus a far better way of writing legislation than picking sides, drawing lines in the sand, issuing press releases, and calling people “nazis” and “socialists” through the media? If it can be done in Little Rock, it can be done in Washington, D.C.

Here is the column.

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