If there were truth in labeling, Assembly Bill 225 would be called the Bad Teacher Retention Act.
Instead, it breezes through the Assembly, winning passage 34-8 this week, under the guise of getting tough on poor-performing teachers. AB225 dictates that any postprobationary teacher -- read: tenured -- who receives unsatisfactory evaluations for two years in a row shall be deemed to be a probationary employee and must serve an additional probationary period.
During hearings on the bill, Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, explained what the bill would do:
"If you are postprobationary, and you have two unsatisfactory evaluations two years in a row, you would then be placed back on probationary status for two years. At that time you would have the opportunity to improve, to go through the evaluation process, and to get the help you need to improve, or be in a situation where your contract would not be renewed. This is a really significant change."
The bill also requires that any previously postprobationary teacher or administrator who receives a dismissal notice be offered an expedited arbitration hearing.
At least one assemblyman briefly balked at the years-long process and recognized the ramifications of its enactment.
"You can have teachers who have unsatisfactory evaluations for two years, and then you are going to grant them an additional two years?" asked Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, incredulously. "I do not understand how you could have that big of a window for someone with an unsatisfactory rating."
Mr. Kirner still voted for the bill.
AB225 and several other measures being heard in the Assembly under the rubric of education reform doubtless started with good intentions. One spells out an evaluation procedure and sets up performance bonuses. Another sets up a system to label each school with a letter grade. Still another sets aside $20 million for teacher incentive pay.
But most go too far in dictating minutiae.
The Legislature should stop trying to nanomanage every detail of every conceivable circumstance that occurs under their auspices. Let the local school districts handle their own affairs. Let some fail. Let some succeed, and then copy the successes instead of wrapping every teacher, principal, superintendent and school into a ball of red tape and bureaucratic trip wires.
Speed up the process for ridding schools of bad teachers. Don't lock them in place for years by law.