As Illinois' legislative session draws to a close, Gov. Pat Quinn will likely sign a major education reform bill that local school districts are starting to think about now.
In May, the state House and Senate passed the legislation, which would evaluate teachers by performance over seniority and make it harder for teachers to strike.
"First and foremost, these reforms will help to ensure that Illinois students are being taught by highly-qualified, excellent teachers," said Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox). "Teacher tenure will no longer be based simply on years served, but instead will be based on merit and performance review."
Currently in District 122 and other school districts, teachers are evaluated twice yearly in their first four years. After four years of consecutive, continuous service, they’re tenured and evaluated every other year. By March each year, administrators must decide if they’re worthy of coming back to continue teaching, and they .
"There’s certainly less protection for tenured teachers," District 122 Supt. Mike Sass said. "It’s raising the stakes for evaluations for tenured teachers. It’s also going to make it with fewer hurdles to jump when it comes to terminating a tenured teacher."
After Quinn signs the legislation, there will be regulations to follow that will be sent to the school districts, Sass said. The district would draft a new evaluation process with the local teachers union. Although this puts more restrictions on teachers, lawmakers and other involved parties are proud that there was involvement from the Illinois Federation of Teachers in crafting the legislation.
“Everywhere else around the country, it’s reform done to teachers, not with teachers,” IFT President Dan Montgomery told The Huffington Post. “This is different. We had serious, serious input on how this law works on every page of it.”
Sass said the issue over time, however, will be how much emphasis is put on student achievement when evaluating teachers and how that will play into their employment. Right now, teachers are largely evaluated on subject knowledge, communication, professionalism and methods of teaching, he said.
"It’s a tricky situation," Sass said. "Some teachers would say it’s not fair to include student performance in evaluations. But ultimately, learning has to take place. Student achievement and performance should be a factor, but definitely not the only factor."