The second iteration of the controversial RAISE Act has gained the approval of Alabama’s Senate Education Committee as the PREP Act (Preparing and Rewarding Education Professionals), but it’s still drawing the ire of educators in Mobile County and across the state.
The PREP Act, introduced by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), would move Alabama teachers to a five-year tenure track and hinges their maintaining that tenure on student evaluations and performance, along with other observations and evaluations.
Those in favor of the bill say it could improve the quality of education in the state, and though it’s already cleared some hurdles in the legislative process, educators say it would put too much weight on results from a single test.
On Wednesday, the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners joined the list of those publicly opposing the PREP Act when it passed a resolution urging the Alabama Senate to vote it down.
“I think this would definitely have a negative effect on teachers and teaching in Alabama,” Board President Don Stringfellow said.Superintendent Martha Peek has previously told Lagniappe that the results of a single test aren’t a very good measurement of how well students are learning — something that was also recently substantiated by a U.S. Department of Education study that showed similar findings.
Back in January, when the same idea was brought up in the RAISE Act, Peek said, “there are many more measures to student success than just one test.”
She indicated — as did Wednesday’s press release — that outside factors like poverty and a student’s family life have an effect on student performance in a “diverse” system like MCPSS. With more than 59,000 students, Mobile County Public Schools is the largest school system in the state.
After the resolution was passed on March 16, Peek said the board’s formal opposition to a change in the tenure system would be appreciated by MCPSS teachers and principals.
However, the change in teacher evaluation isn’t the only concern the board outlined. Educators have also suggested the PREP Act will leave school districts with an unfunded mandate — meaning a new requirement that doesn’t come with the funding to implement it at the local level.
The act would provide a signing bonus to teachers at poor or failing schools, but the state would only pick up the tab for those bonuses during the first year of its implementation. The board said that makes “the PREP Act an unfunded mandate.”
If it passes, the PREP Act will be the third education reform law Marsh has been involved with — preceded by the equally-as-controversial Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 and the charter school bill last year.