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Dear Mick...

on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 02:45

I always wanted a pen pal.  

Here's the complete, unedited correspondence between EdFirstSC & State Supt.-for-Now Mick Zais (and staff)
regarding his plan to gut regulations on class-sizes, teacher workloads, & mandatory staffing ratios.

CLICK HERE to email all State Board Members.  Tell them to REJECT this ludicrous proposal.

To read in sequence, start at the bottom.

(no subject)

Patrick Hayes <edfirstsc@gmail.com>
6:26 AM (10 hours ago)
  
to SCSuptEd, SEnglish, bcc: Jamie
 
Cheer up, Mick.  At least they spelled your name right, and lots of people really "Like" you...
 
 


Have a good day and try to enjoy the State Board meeting.  Sorry I won't be able to attend.

Best regards,
Patrick

Patrick Hayes
Director
 
EdFirstSC Newsletter re. 43-205
Patrick Hayes <edfirstsc@gmail.com>
Sep 29 (2 days ago)
 
to SCSuptEd, SEnglish, dprevatt, RStehle
Hello all,
 
Thank you for composing a timely response to the document I submitted for your review on Thursday.  I've added an extensive section to address your concerns, as you can see below. 
 
Needless to say, this has thrown me behind schedule on formatting.  Feel free to submit additional comments as you see fit.

Best regards,

Patrick Hayes
Director

"Given the chance to preview this document, the State Department of Education wants it noted that the SC Legislature previously suspended some of these regulations as part of its largest-in-the country recession-era cuts (24.1%), only 1/3 of which has been restored. 

That doesn’t mean it was a good decision then, or that we need to codify it as a permanent change now.

Review the proposed changes by clicking here, and ask yourself: are these appropriate rules to have in place, or would kids be better off if we did not have them?

Here is the full text of the Department’s response, composed by Mr. Roy Stehle, Director of the Office of Federal and State Accountability, along with my responses to him:

Response to EdFirstSC regarding State Board of Education (SBE) Regulation 43-205 Administrative and Professional Personnel Qualifications, Duties, and Workloads

The SBE and Dr. Zais have advocated for increased flexibility for school districts and schools to remove barriers to innovation and to raise student achievement.

To further that goal, the South Carolina Department of Education staff reviewed SBE regulations to recommend removing from the regulations provisions that were clearly stated in state or federal statutes and to remove provisions for which there were no statutes requesting or authorizing that regulations be promulgated.  The purpose of the proposed revisions to 43-205 is to provide greater flexibility to school districts and schools in using available resources to target their efforts to transform schools and student learning.

The question that I have repeatedly tried and failed to get a straightforward answer to is this: exactly what flexibility will districts and schools have once these regulations are stricken that is not currently available to them?

Your statement implies what Ms. Prevatt stated directly: some of these regulations will be going away while others are redundant with existing statutes.

Ms. Prevatt was either unwilling or unable to articulate which ones are which.   You have made no effort to address this issue either, Mr. Stehle.

It is the central question in evaluating this proposal.  No intelligent discussion of the issue can proceed until that is clarified.  There is no excuse for the fact that it was not made available on day one of this process. 

Ms. Prevatt mentioned that this information might be available to the Board at their Nov. 13th meeting, when they will either accept or reject the proposed change.

 

In reviewing the provisions to be stricken, I don’t see any that students and teachers would be better off without. 

The vast majority of them seem rather meager in terms of what they promise, especially in comparison with other states such as Florida, whose success in the last decade has been cited repeatedly by the Department as a model of what South Carolina should be doing.

Florida spent roughly $25 billion over the last decade bringing down class-sizes at the same time test scores were going up.  Classes are capped at 18 students in K-3 and 25 students through 12th grade.

Comparable figures from the existing regulation (marked for deletion) are 30 students in K-3 and 35 students for middle and high schools.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush doesn’t talk about this because he didn’t want it to happen.  He fought two battles to stop it, and was overruled by voters and the legislature.

Dr. Zais talks about Bush’s mandatory 3rd grade retention policy as if it were responsible for Florida’s score gains during this period (he talks a good deal less about the hundreds of millions that were spent on reading interventions to head off retention [$130 million this year alone] and the dip in scores that occurred when this funding was cut.

Ironically, smaller class-sizes have been directly linked to achievement gains, and retention is negatively associated with long-term outcomes. 

That’s one of the reasons we took a lead role in stopping the Read to Succeed Act last year. 

 

Everyone has a different theory right now on what the implications of the proposed changes to 43-205 would be. 

Some see class-size or student:teacher ratios being impacted. 

Limits on teaching loads would be stricken.

Secondary teachers are concerned about lifting restrictions on the maximum number of minutes they can teach per week.  The Department’s filing deletes these, and indicates that enhanced “flexibility” (not redundancy) is the relevant issue. 

The proposal also appears to open the door for cuts to guidance counselor, media specialist, and assistant principal positions.  Statute appears to offer protection for some of these positions at some levels of schooling, but not at others.

The revisions state that part-time principals would be permitted for elementary and middle schools.

The Department has articulated no clear statement of these implications and apparently has no plan to do so before a final decision is being made. 

This is reason in and of itself to reject the proposal. 

 

Since at least 2008-09, the General Assembly has suspended staff ratios, except for prekindergarten and special education programs.  The General Assembly has already granted districts and schools the flexibility that is being put forth in the revision of 43-205.  In addition, the State Board of Education has granted several district requests for waivers of staffing ratios over the past several years. 

This argument frankly baffles me.  It shocks me to hear the Department making it, given Dr. Zais’ role in this history and the clear evidence of harm from it.

The argument being made is that because the SC legislature has permitted some districts to ignore some of 43-205’s regulations (in response to an acute crisis), it is perfectly fine to eliminate those guidelines entirely for all districts, forever.

No it isn’t.

If the meager ratios of 43-205 have been ignored in the past, it is a proper object for shame, not a guide to appropriate policy in the future.

Largely because of Act 388, South Carolina made the largest recession-era cuts to education in the US (24.1%) and suspended regulations to make ends meet rather than admitting and correcting the error. 

Our cuts (and staffing ratios, class-sizes and teacher workloads) would have been smaller had Dr. Zais not insisted on making South Carolina the only state in the country to refuse federal funds intended to keep teachers on the job.  Instead, thousands were fired and class-sizes skyrocketed. 

Facing a daunting re-election next year, Dr. Zais has taken to editing this history very selectively, pointing out that the budget passed by the legislature disqualified us from funding.

The implication is that his ideology and judgment played no role. 

That interpretation simply does not square with the recorded facts, including statements Dr. Zais made at the time, and statements made by legislative leaders who were prepared to amend the budget issues if Dr. Zais would agree to accept the funds.

In 2012, when revenues recovered and the state had a billion-dollar surplus, Dr. Zais failed to request any restoration of our largest-in-the-nation cuts.  Under his leadership, only 1/3 have been restored.

 

What course does our experience during those years indicate for the future?

Our average ranking on NAEP was 32nd in 2005. 

In 2011, in every subject and grade level tested, South Carolina students ranked between 34th and 39th in the country on NAEP data.  Our average ranking was 37th.

Fourth-grade math plummeted from 21st in the nation to 37th during those years.

 

To argue that we should permanently extend the “flexibility” that was granted during this period is nothing short of ludicrous.

Lincoln suspended key provisions of the Bill of Rights during the Civil War.  That's not an argument for repealing them today.

 

With regard to public notice, state law sets for the process for promulgating regulations and requires the publication of notices and the regulations through the State Register.  The public was properly informed of the proposed changes to the regulation.  The drafting notice was printed in the State Register on July 26, 2013.  The first reading documents are being published on September 27th, 2013 in the State Register.  The SBE had first reading of the proposed changes on September 11, 2013, with discussion; information will be presented to the State Board on October 11, 2013, for their continued discussion, as well as at the second reading on November 13, 2013. 

I neither stated nor implied that any statutory filing deadlines had been breached. 

This paragraph would seem to be a response to my statement that, “At the very least, Zais is attempting to change core regulations without properly informing the public of the impact.”

Whether the law requires it or not, members of the public are entitled to an explanation of these changes that goes beyond the position of the Department’s lead contact person on this issue, which I would characterize as follows: “That’s for me to not know, and you to find out.”

It is worth noting that my call to Ms. Prevatt did not come out of the blue.  I contacted her a week ahead of time, and told her that morning exactly what time I would be calling.  Furthermore, I offered her the opportunity to research the issue and get back to me, an offer she ultimately declined.

 

Public comment is received throughout the period from first reading to second reading with a public hearing being held on November 13.

We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. 

I’m sticking with the date stated in the documents filed with the State Board of Education: “Written comments should be submitted to Darlene Prevatt…on or before 5:00pm on October 28, 2013.”

 

The significance of this notation eludes me, since my point had been that Ms. Prevatt stated that the requested information “might” be provided to the Board for the Nov. 13th meeting. 

No mention was made of the possibility of making it available to the public, and certainly not in any timely fashion, which would have been September 11th.

 

The possibility of making public comments at the outset of the Nov. 13th meeting would seem to offer, at best, a rather constricted window for making an informed assessment of the impact of the policy.

Furthermore, since a major group of stakeholders impacted by these changes will in fact be teaching students that day, the October 28th deadline would seem to be the most relevant one.

 

Since the EdFirstSC newsletter goes to 17,000 and you may wish to avoid misunderstanding, I would recommend that you include the information above in your newsletter as well.

Duly noted, Mr. Stehle.  Everything you see here will be published verbatim.  One embarrassing correction is needed, however.

That 17,000 figure has been in use for a while and does not account for growth.

Twenty-thousand is a better estimate of our current reach across all platforms."

 

Response to Comments - Regulation 43-205
Stehle, Roy <RStehle@ed.sc.gov>
Sep 27 (4 days ago)
 
to me, Scott

Mr. Hayes,

Please find attached the response for Regulation 43-205 to correct misunderstandings contained in the EdFirstSC document sent to Dr. Zais and Scott English.

Roy Stehle – Director

Office of Federal and State Accountability

SC Department of Education

1429 Senate Street, Room 502A

Columbia, SC 29201

803-734-8118

rstehle@ed.sc.gov

 

Last chance
Patrick Hayes <edfirstsc@gmail.com>
Sep 26 (5 days ago)
 
to SCSuptEd, SEnglish, dprevatt
Hello all,
 
Publishing over the weekend usually works out best for me.  Please let me know if you see any way to improve this piece on proposed regulation 43-205.
 
I am, at heart, a lazy man.  Nothing would please me more than to avoid the tedious chore of formatting and sending a newsletter to 17,000 people over a simple misunderstanding.

Best regards,

Patrick Hayes
Director
 

State Supt.-for-Now Mick Zais is eager to gut regulations that limit class sizes, regulate teacher workloads, and require mandatory staffing levels for teachers, guidance counselors, assistant principals, and media specialists.

His proposed rewrite of state regulation would delete 40 provisions that control these issues.  His staff emphasizes that the goal is to give districts “flexibility”, but that state and federal laws also cover these topics. 

When asked how a harmless paper shuffle would add flexibility, I was told, “That’s the way Dr. Zais wants it, so that’s the way it is.”

I asked Darlene Prevatt, the Department of Ed’s lead contact person on the proposal, if all of the deleted provisions are covered by other laws, she said, “No.”

I asked for details as to which provisions would still be covered and which would not. 

I was told that, two months after the provision was filed, and halfway through the public comment period, no such details are available.

Surely, I suggested, the State Board would want to know?  She told me that a chart might be prepared for them by Nov. 13th, after the close of public comments.

She named two of the 40 provisions, and stated that existing SC laws would perform the same functions.  The other 38?  She did not know their status.

Embarrassed for her, I offered her the opportunity to research them and get back to me.  

At first, she agreed to do so. 

When I indicated that my primary interest was in knowing which provisions would be eliminated entirely, she indicated that she has many other things to do, and that this is not her job.

I reminded her that I am communicating with thousands of concerned supporters, and want to be able to do so responsibly. 

She indicated that we should just go ahead and make our comments during the public comment period like everybody else. 

I imagine she intended to have us use the Department’s preferred procedure…

“Email Darlene Prevatt”.

We’ll definitely cc her, but given the Department’s track record of censoring and suppressing public comment, I’m thinking we’ll just go ahead and email the State Board. 

Cut and paste the addresses below into an email, or just forward this newsletter to them. 

Let the State Board know that Mick Zais is either asking them to gut vital regulations that protect the quality of our children’s education, or proposing a change that nobody on his staff knows the implications of.   

It’s hard to say which would be more appalling.  The Board needs to reject this proposal, either way.

At the very least, Zais is attempting to change core regulations without properly informing the public of the impact.

I will say that it’s refreshing to see Mick just being himself, at a time when so many other people are focused on next year’s elections.

He cannot be hoping to win votes by allowing kindergarten classes larger than 30 students.  Perhaps the rumors are true and he won’t be running for re-election.

Incidentally, I did follow Ms. Prevatt’s suggestion and attempt to research the laws that overlap with the regulations being deleted. 

Keep in mind that I’m not a legal scholar.  Heck, I’m not even a bureaucrat.  I have many other things to do and this is not my job.

I found exactly two…the same two cited by Ms. Prevatt.

Re: Do I Have This Correct? 43-205 (1)
Patrick Hayes <edfirstsc@gmail.com>
Sep 20 (11 days ago)
 
to dprevatt
Dear Ms. Prevatt,
 
Thank you for your call yesterday.  I look forward to speaking with you.
 
I'm difficult to reach by phone, inasmuch as I am also a 3rd grade teacher.  I will be reachable today from 9:45 - 10:25 and 1:20 - 1:40.  I am also available any day after 3:15.
 
On Monday and Tuesday, my only earlier availablility is between 9:45 and 10:25.
 
If this proves unworkable, please feel free to respond by email.  I will be publishing on this topic late next week.  Thank you.
 
Best regards,
 
Patrick Hayes
Director
 
Do I Have This Correct? 43-205 (1)
Patrick Hayes <edfirstsc@gmail.com>
Sep 18 (13 days ago)
 
to dprevatt, SEnglish
Hello Ms. Prevatt,

I lead a nonprofit called EdFirstSC that works on education advocacy.  We communicate with a large membership statewide, encouraging them to become involved in shaping education policy. 

We always want our engagement to be relevant, responsible, and constructive.  With that in mind, I'd like to find out more about Proposed Regulation 43-205 (1).

I've been contacted by a number of members who are eager to see us take action on this matter.
 
It appears to strike out all regulations pertaining to student:teacher ratios (with the exception of special education) as well as enrollment-based mandatory staffing ratios for PE, music, guidance, and assistant principals.
 
Is this reading of the change correct?

Is there some context that might make this proposal less alarming to parents and teachers?  If so, I would be very glad to share it with our members. 
 
Thank you for your assistance.
 
Best regards,

Patrick Hayes

Director

EdFirstSC