Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oklahoma Senate Bill Will Rename National Board Fund

So far this legislative season, there are three bills proposed that will fundamentally change the landscape for our National Board teacher program, administered by Education Leadership Oklahoma. One, Senator Ford's SB316 will go to committee Monday.

I do not claim to be an expert in reading and translating legislative bills, but unfortunately I've had more experience in the past couple of years than I'd want. As my husband often points out, I'm much happier reading fiction. But with Common Core coming at us like a runaway freight train, it's time to do some close reading of these bills. The same close reading we'll be forced to impose on our students.

SB316 renames the National Board Certification Revolving Fund, proposing to call it the Oklahoma Teacher Performance Pay Revolving Fund. Yup. Performance Pay. Merit Pay. It does more than change the name of the fund. It modifies the purpose of the funds and redirects the payments.

Now, $15 million will be appropriated for the fund. I was intrigued with the phrase "The fund

shall be a continuing fund, not subject to fiscal year limitations..." in the original law, funds were always 'subject to availability." Good change...except

NOW, after 'bonuses' to NBCTs are paid, all leftover funds will be paid out as TLE bonuses for teachers earning 'superior' or 'highly effective' ratings on their teacher evaluation. NO language here that spells that out. The teacher evaluation process has been a frustrating, moving target all year.

Furthermore, no 'bonus' amount is spelled out for NBCTs. In the original law, it was set at $5000. Nothing here. The TLE bonuses are set at $1000 for superior and $500 for highly effective evaluations.

Concerns? Oh, yeah! NBCTs have already been evaluated by the rigorous National Board process...a highly challenging journey of deep analysis and self reflection of our teaching. We've videotaped in our classrooms, we have analyzed our practice in and out of the classroom. We have produced a multi-component portfolio of our work, and have sat for timed tests. That process is much more demanding than the state evaluation, and yet, now the fund for NBCT stipends will be renamed and shared.

There is no mention of how long NBCTs can receive the stipends, or how much the stipends will be. We will just be sharing our fund with the unproven TLE evaluation system.

I see this as a cynical grab for the money set aside for NBCTs -- money, which quite frankly, we never know will be available (that is the only part of this bill I appreciate...the availability of funds language is struck.

So, the Education Committee will hear the bill on Monday. Look at the list of members, and if your Senator is on the Committee, contact him or her and express your concerns.

We must face the fact that we have little support in the Legislature for this program.

It is an incentive pay program, promising payment IF teachers would hold up their practice to the scrutiny of the National Board Standards. But, once legislators saw a way to strip this program, a national leader, and replace it with true "merit" pay that can be controlled at the state level, we knew NBC was doomed in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is still, even with our small population, in the top ten of states with NBCTs. 3056 NBCTs! Our leaders used to be proud of this fact, we used to provide scholarships for teachers to pursue NBC. Now, not so much.

Contact your Senator! Share your stories and evidence of student learning. Do it now!


  1. Thanks for the information and for always being a forerunner and champion in education! I appreciate you! :)

  2. Lara, thank YOU for the kind words. This attitude from our Legislators makes me so angry. There are scores of good young teachers who need to pursue NBC, and they'll never get a chance. Grr.