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Hoghouse Hogwash: Daugaard Education-Wrecking Agenda Still Fully in Play

Last updated on 2014.12.06

Josh Verges's headline, "Panel Guts Education Reform Bill Before Sending to Senate," would lead readers to believe that House Bill 1234 is now a far cry from the atrocity introduced by the Governor one month ago today and the ugly ed-wrecker passed by the House twelve days ago.

Such was the theme of comments from District 31 legislators at their crackerbarrel at Spearfish High School this morning. Senator Tom Nelson says the current version of HB 1234 is an "entirely different animal." Rep. Fred Romkema says HB 1234 has "been amended heavily. I don't believe it resembles the original bill."

Over 2000 people signed my petition calling for an education task force instead of HB 1234 before Senate Education's aye vote on Thursday. If one believed Verges, Nelson, and Romkema, one might think those 2000 signers now have nothing to worry about.

One would be wrong. Despite two hoghouse amendments, HB 1234 still has the same four bad policies Governor Daugaard asked for in the first place. Let's break it down:

1. HB 1234 imposes state-mandated standardized evaluations of teachers (Sections 37–42) and principals (Sections 43–46) on public school district in South Dakota. These sections are, as far as I can tell, identical to Sections 17–26 of Governor Daugaard's original bill. No local control has been added. No school district may opt out of the state-mandated evaluations.

2. HB 1234 takes away teachers' due process protections under continuing contract (Sections 4754). Section 47 ends continuing contract in 2016 instead of 2012. Section 47 makes explicit the right of local districts to offer continuing contract protections, a right which was arguably implicit in the original bill, although one "may not" changed to "need not" in Section 47 suggests that may not have been the case.

Otherwise, Sections 47–54 are identical to Sections 27–34 as originally proposed by the Governor.

3. HB 1234 establishes merit pay limited to the top 20% of teachers in each school district. This ill-advised, disproven policy remains the state's preferred way to spend your tax dollars. Sections 17–25 remain identical to Sections 7–15 of the original bill (with the exception that Section 18 now clarifies that participation in the top teacher reward program is voluntary "for teachers"). The new Section 36 also includes the full language of the original Section 16, allowing teachers to participate in both the top teachers reward program and the math and science teacher incentive program.

The two major changes to the merit pay policy are the addition of local opt-out (Sections 26 and 27) and local teacher reward plans (Sections 28–36). The local opt-out provisions, whereby a school district forfeits any additional funding from the state's merit pay plan, are identical to Sections 16–17 in the bill passed by the House on Feb. 13.

The option for districts to create local teacher reward plans (LTRPs) as alternatives to the state was not in Governor Daugaard's original proposal, and it has been changed somewhat from the House version. Merit-based LTRPs now can use broader criteria of "impact on student achievement" and "teacher leadership" not explicitly tied to the state-mandated teacher evaluations. However, non-merit-based LTRPs are more explicitly limited to "critical teaching area needs." (Compare current Section 29 with House version Section 19.)

HB 1234 convenes an LTRP Advisory Council to write up one or model LTRP applications, which I assume will serve as models of plans the state considers acceptable. Section 30 of the current bill gives teachers more voice on this council. The House version would have empaneled six principals, six superintendents, two board members, and three teachers; the current version empanels six administrators, six teachers, and three board members.

But this board only provides input. The Governor's Education Secretary gets the final say on the model applications (Section 31, identical to House version Section 21). Worse, the ongoing control is given to an LTRP Oversight Board (Section 32) beholden to the Governor. Compare the proposed panels:

House version:

  1. One member of the Senate appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate;
  2. One member of the House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives;
  3. One representative of the business community appointed by the Governor;
  4. One representative of an educational association appointed by the Governor; and
  5. One former teacher appointed by the Governor.
Senate version:

  1. One member of the Senate appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate;
  2. One member of the House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives;
  3. Two representatives of the business community appointed by the Governor;
  4. One representative of an educational association appointed by the Governor;
  5. One current or former teacher appointed by the Governor; and
  6. The secretary of the Department of Education.

The current version of HB 1234 increases this governing panel from five to seven, and increases the majority appointed by the Governor from three to five. And just for kicks (check your shins, fellow teachers), HB 1234 now doubles the number of education non-experts to offer their irrelevant bromides about how to run schools like businesses. And these seven people in Pierre, not local school boards, will decide what plans local schools get to use to receive additional funding.

By including the Secretary of Education on the LTRP Oversight Board, HB 1234 now reduces one step in the bureacracy, as the Board and Secretary work together in the decision-making process. And where the House version said that schools whose LTRPs are denied go straight into the state's 20% top teacher merit pay plan, denied schools now can opt out and give up on receiving the additional funding (Section 33).

Sections 34 and 35 establish the schedule and amount for the state's LTRP disbursements. These sections are identical to Sections 24 and 25 from the House version.

4. HB 1234 enshrines the principle of math and science Über alles (Sections 11–16). HB 1234 still insists on treating math and science teachers as a special class. Which of them get the money and how have changed somewhat. Elementary math/science specialists join middle and high school math/science teachers in the running. Instead of $3500 going to every MS/HS math/science teacher, $2500 bonuses now go only to those math/science teachers receiving "distinguished" or "proficient" evaluation ratings.

The math/science incentives thus compound a tunnel-vision focus on math and science (what, we don't need engineers who can communicate?) with an expansion of the Governor's wrong-headed belief that merit pay works. And just in case any school district wants to avoid the deleterious effects of merit pay, Section 26 specifies that no school district may opt out of this math/science-focused merit pay program. No local control there.

The only really new wart on this hog is the critical teaching needs scholarship program, neatly fit into Sections 1–10 to allow easy renumbering of all the other recycled sections. The scholarship program may just be a spin on an old program recalled by new eager commenter D.E. Bishop. The program seems harmless enough but it has no direct link to improving student achievement. It's also worth noting that college juniors and seniors may still do the math and find they will end up with more income and less rigamarole if they go teach in Minnesota or Wyoming.

So sure, Mr. Verges, the Gang of Six gutted the bill. They then stuffed those guts right back in, with a couple cupcakes and cowpies thrown in for good measure.

Overall, in principle and in policy, HB 1234 is still very much the same lame but rabid beast Governor Daugaard has sought to send slobbering through our public schools.

* * *

For the auditorially inclined, here's how I laid out some of the above case at today's crackerbarrel in at the Spearfish HS auditorium:


And here's how Senator Tom Nelson (R-31/Lead) responded:

Have faith: we'll keep changing it, and it will work. Why am I still nervous?


  1. Josh 2012.02.25

    Nice summary. Reporters don't write headlines, by the way.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.25

    Thanks, Josh! (Silly bloggers, thinking everyone else writes their own headlines. :-) )

  3. South DaCola 2012.02.25

    Nice job Cory. HB 1234 reminds me of Obama's healthcare bill, we all know how that turned out.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    The comparison to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is inapt, Scott. PPACA was a product of yearlong negotiation and compromise. It was a move toward proven models of health care policy (think RomneyCare). HB 1234 is a one-month rush job crafted by the Governor and the Gang of Six. The supporters of HB 1234 lack any shred of evidence that their plan will work.

    But whatever your failings about ObamaCare, HB 1234 remains terrible education policy.

  5. Joseph Nelson 2012.02.26


    I am specifically curious about your case against the state mandated evaluations. I know before I have requested that current evaluation procedures be disclosed, but nothing ever came of that... Looking at the bill as written and amended, what exactly are your gripes with the proposed evaluation process (apart from the link to merit pay)? For tho who don't want to scroll to a link, here is the text:

    13-42-34. Any public school district seeking state accreditation shall evaluate the performance of each certified teacher. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, each certified teacher shall be evaluated on an annual basis.
    Each school district shall adopt the model evaluation instrument required by section 40 of this Act and procedures for evaluating the performance of certified teachers employed by the school district that:
    (1) Are based on the minimum professional performance standards established by the Board of Education pursuant to § 13-42-33;
    (2) Require multiple measures of performance as follows:
    (a) Fifty percent of the evaluation of a teacher shall be based on quantitative measures of student growth, based on a single year or multiple years of data. This quantitative data shall be based on reports of student performance on state validated assessments established pursuant to § 13-3-55. For those teachers in grades and subjects for which there is no state-validated assessment for the quantitative portion of the evaluation, teachers shall demonstrate success in improving student achievement using objective measures, which can include portfolio assessments, end-of-course exams, or other district approved assessments which demonstrate student growth; and
    (b) Fifty percent of the evaluation of a teacher shall be based on qualitative, observable, evidence-based characteristics of good teaching and classroom practices as further defined in the model evaluation instrument referenced in section 40 of this Act. Districts may collect additional evidence using any of the following if not required by the model evaluation instrument:
    (i) Classroom drop-ins;
    (ii) Parent surveys;
    (iii) Student surveys;
    (iv) Portfolios; or
    (v) Peer review;
    (3) Serve as the basis for programs to increase professional growth and development of certified teachers; and
    (4) Include a plan of assistance for any certified teacher whose performance does not meet the school district's performance standards; and
    (5) Are based on the following four-tier rating system:
    (a) Distinguished;
    (b) Proficient;
    (c) Basic; and
    (d) Unsatisfactory.

    and then:

    13-42-35. A work group appointed by the secretary of education shall provide input in developing the standards for defining the four-tier rating system required by section 38 of this Act and in developing a model evaluation instrument that shall be used by school districts for the 2014-2015 school year and subsequent school years. The work group shall consist of the following members:
    (1) Six teachers: two from an elementary school, two from a middle school, and two from a high school;
    (2) Three principals: one from an elementary school, one from a middle school, and one from a high school;
    (3) Two superintendents;
    (4) Two school board members;
    (5) Four parents who have students in various levels of the K-12 system:
    (6) One representative of the South Dakota Education Association;
    (7) One representative of the School Administrators of South Dakota; and
    (8) One representative of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Joseph, this part of the plan is the least of my concerns. I'm not afraid of my work being evaluated; I welcome everyone—my principal, board members, parents, taxpayers, the Legislature, and the Governor himself—to come observe me at work in my classroom, review my lesson plans, and offer their thoughts on what I'm doing well and what I need to do better.

    I raise the evaluation issue here to refute two main GOP talking points. The few backers of this bill claim that it has now been amended beyond recognition from the original bill, implying that any arguments we offered against it a month or a week ago are moot. The state-mandated evaluation text you paste shows that claim is false. The backers claim that local control is one of their main excuses for voting for the bill. The state-mandated evaluation text exemplifies how this bill weakens local control.

  7. Sue P 2012.02.26

    You lay out the exact problem with local control and the new evaluation piece. As part of the work group on the Teacher Standards, we were repeatedly told local districts would be able to "opt in" to using the "model" evaluation tool. As long as districts cross-walked their evaluation process and criteria with the Framework for Teaching (Danielson Framework) they would be free to continue their current evaluation process and procedures. It is a loss of local control.

  8. Bryce Healy 2012.02.26

    Great job as usual Cory.

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