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Senator's bills take aim at teacher quality

Sen. Bill Ferguson, assistant to city schools CEO Andres Alonso before he was elected in November, has proposed an education legislative package that is causing quite a stir due to its emphasis on teaching quality. We wrote the story outlining the bills today.

Highlights include adding "ineffectiveness" as a condition for teacher dismissal. Ferguson said that while "incompetence," (also a condition, and the one generally used in dismissals) is similar, it's more subjective, and sets too high of a bar for dismissals. Effectiveness, Ferguson said, is a measure adopted by MD recently, to be used for the promotion and compensation, and it should also be used for the reverse.

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The Baltimore Teachers Union, who just ratified a contract that butts heads with Ferguson's bills, said the freshman lawmaker may be jumping the gun in attempting to legislate among lawmakers, what is already a work in progress by school leaders. English is also part of the State's Council on Teacher Effectiveness, which is developing a new evaluative tool tieing student performance to 50 percent of teacher evaluations.

More importantly, union President Marietta English said, adding another condition for dismissing teachers could destroy the trust built in the district during the ratification of the new city teacher contract. (NOTE: Ferguson was part of that negotiating team for the new contract).

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City schools CEO Andres Alonso however said he has long supported "ineffectiveness" as a basis for dismissing teachers.

Another teacher quality bill sought to allow charter schools more autonomy in their hiring by granting the schools the right to "mutual consent," rather than forced placement of teachers. Ferguson said the idea behind this was to ensure that charters are not stuck with educators just because they're certified, but because they truly share the charter's mission.

Ferguson's initiatives were embraced by charter operators, who said that they need more autonomy over who is in their schools for charters to really fulfill their mission of bringing innovation to the school system.

Ferguson, a Teach For America grad, ran on a education platform last year and has taken the first step in his promise to use the city as an inspiration in the statehouse.

Was this step the right step, or a misstep?


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