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We just sent the following letter to each of the 33 Ohio State Senators. We'll report their answers as we receive them.

Dear State Senator,

With the Ohio House of Representatives passing HB153 and the debate moving to the Senate, I am writing you to enquire what your position is on a number of items in this bill. Specifically

(1) Do you support or oppose the expansion of charter school provisions and the easing or oversight?

(2) Do you support or oppose the teacher merit pay provisions that eliminate the current framework of compensation and contracts and replace it with an untried evaluation system?

(3) Do you support or oppose the cuts in over all funding levels for K-12 public education?

I would be very interested to learn your thoughts on these important issues.

Many thanks,
Join the Future

Who profits with more testing?

If Ohio's new teacher merit pay framework survives intact in HB153, testing will become an even greater centerpiece of public education. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools, spent nearly $2 million to implement 52 tests, so that a new teacher evaluation system could be trialed. 52 tests! $2 million not spent on teaching.

At the center of this effort in North Carolina is the Eli Broad foundation.
Superintendent Peter Gorman may be the face of public education in Charlotte, but is a Los Angeles billionaire the power behind the scenes?

Locally and nationally, skeptics are questioning the clout wielded by Eli Broad. His foundation, which has helped put Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the national spotlight, has also paid to train Gorman and the school board, and to help CMS hire administrators with a business bent.
This does all lead to an interesting question posed on the pages of the Washington Post today
In addition, who creates, scores, and maintains these tests? This promises to divert taxpayer dollars from the classroom to the testing companies. Handing public dollars over to private testing enterprises is outsourcing the intellectual work teachers train to do: evaluate students. It is a waste we cannot afford and promises further dumbing-down of our nation’s classrooms.
One might wonder if we are sending kids to school to learn or to simply take tests so we can "evaluate" teachers, and of course, hand over tax dollars to for-profit vampire testing companies.

Merit Pay Mess

The budget bill, HB153 contains a lot of provisions that affect public education and teachers. Few, if any, are well thought out. The law firm Muskovitz & Lemmerbrock recently wrote their analysis of HB153, which we have published in full below. Using that, let's take a quick look at teacher pay and evaluations.

First, forget your contract. HB153 prevails over that. From now on you will be paid depending upon;
(1) Your licensure level
(2) Whether you are highly qualified, or as some have smartly pointed out, whether you can breathe
(3) Your annual evaluation

The fun starts with these evaluations. You're going to get lumped into one of four ratings;
(1) Highly effective
(2) Effective
(3) Needs improvement
(4) Unsatisfactory

You will have noticed there isn't any middle ground here. Indeed, 2 of the levels could well lead to mass firings of teachers, as the analysis points out
These evaluations must then be used for decisions regarding compensation, nonrenewal, termination, layoffs and professional development. If a teacher received a rating of "unsatisfactory" for two consecutive years, a rating of "unsatisfactory" for two of three consecutive years, a rating of "needs improvement" for three consecutive years, or a combination of "unsatisfactory" and "needs improvement" for three consecutive years, the teacher loses his or her continuing contract.

The Buckeye Institute was salivating at this thought of being able to fire 25% of teachers. HB153 really does light the way for this to happen.

Now supporters of this will argue that if you are an effective teacher you have nothing to worry about. Well, let's take a look at how these evaluations will be performed.

In class observations - two 30 minute observations per year will be performed. Apart from being a huge administrative burden, which we laid out here, you also have to worry that the observation is performed by someone who is qualified to asses your work, and is going to be fair.

By far the biggest piece of the evaluation is Value Add - 50% of your evaluation in fact. We've talked a lot about how unreliable this measure is for individual teacher performance, here and here for example. But what if there's no data? Well that's ok, only 40% of your evaluation will be based on it. I know. Think about it.

Just in case observations and bad measurements aren't enough, the legislature adds one extra layer of crazy to the mix - parent and student survey's.
The evaluations will include whether parents and students are satisfied with a teacher, "which may be measured by surveys, questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback," the law reads.
A provision wirtten by the Onion.

To recap - your pay will no longer depend upon your collective bargaining contract, or step increases, but instead your pay, and your career, will be determined by measures that don't work, require more teaching to the test and open to subjective abuse by administrators. And just in case you're thinking to yourself - "I'll sue if they fire me unfairly", HB153 has that covered too - The bill specifically grants civil immunity to the local board of education and school board members for conducting these evaluations.

We here at Join the Future highly encourage you to contact your state Senator and tell them that these provisions need to be removed from the budget.

Contact your state Senator. Your career may depend upon it.

Budget Bill Analysis by Muskovotz - Attorneys at Law

(c) Join the Future