CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Given the influence of teachers' unions, one member of the State Board of Education said she "wouldn't touch" the recommendation of the Education Audit that "seniority" no longer be a factor in a county board of education's decision to fill a classroom teaching position, as it is now by law.
Another member is reported to have said that removing seniority as a factor in a county board's employment decision would make the teachers unions go crazy and that fighting the unions would not accomplish anything.
A front-page story in the Sept. 30 Sunday Gazette-Mail ("BOE wary of teacher unions in reform talks") reported that "foremost in the board members' minds on some of the audit's most controversial recommendations ... was how the West Virginia's powerful teachers' unions and politicians would react to their proposals."
What are likely to be some of the audit's most controversial recommendations? Certainly these:
* Establish a Teach for America program to recruit teachers for hard-to-serve areas.
* Tie teacher compensation to teacher effectiveness, not just advanced degrees and years of experience in that past performance rather than advanced degrees and experience is the best predictor of teacher effectiveness.
* Set minimum standard performance levels for teacher preparation programs in that teacher preparation is an area in critical need for attention in West Virginia.
* Connect tenure to teacher effectiveness rather than automatically granting tenure at the end of a three-year probationary period.
* Support differential pay for teachers "in shortage subject areas and high-needs schools."
* Prevent ineffective teachers from remaining in the classroom indefinitely by allowing only one appeal of a dismissal at the county level, not two as currently provided.
* Authorize school principals, rather than county boards of education, to hire and release teachers in their schools to best serve their students' needs.
* Require that at least 51 percent of teachers' evaluations be based on "student growth."
(The 2012 Legislature at the request of the governor, and, as I am informed, with the approval of the Board of Education, enacted legislation that student learning be limited to only 15 percent of teachers' evaluations, well below the national trend. The legislation allows teachers to determine (1) the learning of their students based on how well they achieve two goals set by the teacher for a particular class, and (2) the evidence they will provide to document progress on both goals. No testing is required.)