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High-Stakes Testing, Lack Of Voice Driving Teachers Out

Contrary to popular opinion, unruly students are not driving out teachers in droves from America’s urban school districts. Instead, teachers are quitting due to frustration with standardized testing, declining pay and benefits and lack of voice in what they teach.

So finds a Michigan State University education scholar – and former high school teacher – in her latest research on teacher turnover, which costs the nation an estimated $2.2 billion a year.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education, conducted in-depth interviews with urban secondary teachers before they quit successful careers in teaching. In a pair of studies, Dunn found that despite working in a profession they love, the teachers became demoralized by a culture of high-stakes testing in which their evaluations are tied to student scores and teachers have little say in the curriculum.

Many policymakers say the dominant emphasis on standardized testing is needed to make U.S. students more globally competitive. But “preparing students to answer multiple choice questions,” Dunn argues, is not true learning.

“Those are not the skills that created Silicon Valley and Facebook,” Dunn said, “and I don’t believe the child who will eventually cure cancer will achieve that by learning to choose between A and B.”

Frustration with high-stakes testing and top-down educational policies is part of what led Dunn, in 2009, to leave her job as an urban high school English teacher in Atlanta. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the teacher turnover rate in poor schools is about 20 percent per year – roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in affluent schools.

While previous research has examined why teachers quit after the fact, Dunn wanted to explore the issue while teachers are wrestling with the decision, to get a real-time take on the problem. In one of her studies, which appears in the Urban Review, the teachers she interviewed said the factors that made them want to continue teaching included their students, colleagues, commitment to the profession and worry about pursuing a new career in hard economic times.

“As previous research has shown, it is not, contrary to popular opinion, students who drive teachers out of the classroom,” Dunn said.

But the negative factors – including lack of quality instruction time and low salaries – outweighed the positive aspects of teaching and led the teachers to quit. The average U.S. teacher salary decreased 1.3 percent between 2000 and 2013 – to $56,383, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Further, the United States ranked 22 out of 27 participating countries in a 2011 study of teacher salaries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In addition, lack of support contributed to teachers’ decision to quit. Dunn said teachers need more than professional development – they also need personal support, even if that’s a colleague or an organized group to talk to about the pressures they face.

“How can teachers and administrators support each other in having courageous conversations about what teaching is doing to them,” Dunn said, “and how can they work together to ease some of the common stressors?”

In the other study, which appears in Teachers College Record, Dunn interviewed one of her brightest former teaching candidates, Samantha Durrance, who went on to become an urban middle school teacher – only to quit after just two years in the classroom.

Like Dunn, Durrance found the high-pressure environment of standardized testing to be detrimental to both her and her students.

“The reality I found was one in which there are far too many standards and far too little time to teach,” Durrance said. “I have given all of myself to this for too short a time to already be so drained. Fighting against the myriad of forces that drag our students down is just too much for me.”

The Core of the problem is the tests

Earlier this week (October 14th, 2014) the Ohio house Rules Committee held its 7th hearing on HB597 - commonly referred to has the "Common Core Repeal bill", but in actuality is replete with all manner of extreme pieces of legislation only tangentially related to educating students. This hearing was committed to hearing from opponents of common core, including teachers. Here's how Gongwer reported their testimony
Teacher Tracy Yereb said one of her kindergarten students, Julia, had to sit beside the trash can daily because she vomited from stress. Her student Daniel came from a home where both parents were addicted to drugs and in and out of jail.

"Yet we asked Daniel to give his best performance on a 52-minute test to have documentation that he mastered the Common Core standards," she said in testimony. "Really? All Daniel could think about was wanting to have food and to live in a safe environment.
Another teacher testified
Vicki Brusky, a first-year teacher from Lorain County, said she has opted her son, who has Asperger's syndrome, out of taking the state tests because of the anxiety they cause.

In working with IEP students, she said she administered the third-grade reading test to two students who were granted extended time. She spent the day - 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. - administering the test to them and while one gave up, the other spent the end of the day rushing to fill in bubbles, she said.
And a third teacher
Steve Parlin, an English teacher from Marietta, said he thinks students are becoming more dependent and less self-directed.

"They are taking fewer risks, and instead hold out for the correct answer to be given to them, for that is all that matters," he said. "Indeed, the test-driven mania that dominates our school culture communicates one clear message above all others: The only thinking and learning that matters is that which can be measured. The only learning that matters is what will be tested."
What is striking about this so-called "anti-common core" testimony is how little of it is opposed to the standards, but rather the explosion of testing that is taking place in our schools. It should be obvious to all by now that the corporate reformers have created an over-testing crisis in our schools. In their desire to "hold teachers accountable" what they have instead achieved is holding back student learning so they can take test, after test, after test. It's time that madness ended, and the corporate reformers were sent back to their billionaire backed board rooms to leave the real business of education our children to the experts.

Teacher retention is critical to school quality

When Reynoldsburg teachers went on strike, the issue of teacher retention came to the forefront of discussion. It was reported that almost 1 in 5 teachers had left the district. A rate of turnover far exceeding other districts in the area.

An EdWeek article discussing research on the issue of retention:

The panelists also stressed that teacher shortages are not a recruitment issue so much as a retention issue, as Ingersoll has demonstrated in his oft-cited studies on teacher-retention rates. Ingersoll's research finds that 45 percent of turnover occurs in only 25 percent of schools.
[...]
"We have the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription ... It's not that we produce too few [teachers,] it's that we lose too many," Ingersoll said.

He emphasized that any solution to school understaffing needs to focus not on making teaching more attractive to potential teachers but on retaining teachers once they enter the workforce. I said that the way to fix the problem "is to improve the quality of teachers and teaching, and the way to do that is to improve the quality of the teaching job."

That starts with administration.

"The key factor that matters," said Ladd, "is school leadership," particularly "transformational leadership" that focuses on more than simply instructional issues.

McWalters agreed, suggesting that leaders create environments where teachers can better collaborate with each and have more power in decision-making processes.
The variables mentioned for creating an environment conducive for retaining top talent seem obvious, but are also clearly lacking in Reynoldsburg. As evidence, even now that a contentious strike is over, the District led by first year Superintendent Tina Thomas Manning continues to disrespect its teaching force and act unilaterally
“Despite good-faith efforts to resolve this issue, the district decided to act unilaterally once again,” Kim Cooper, co-president of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, said in a statement on the union’s Facebook page yesterday.

“The district told us on Friday that they would not be able to make any decisions on a plan to address the missing pay until Monday,” Cooper said. “In good faith, we decided to give them that time to come up with a proposal. Instead, like so many times before, the district decided to act on its own and do whatever it wanted.”
When researchers examined the reasons for teaching staff turnover, the found the following:

The top four reasons were all primary reasons that led to the strike in Reynoldsburg, yet instead of addressing these issues the district instead sought to divide teachers using a merit pay system that has repeatedly been demonstrated to not work, and to further the insult, eliminate health benefits.

This battle with corporate reformers have been going on for a long time now, yet all the evidence continues to point away from their prescribes "solutions". There are now quick fixes to improving educational quality. It requires professional teachers, with manageable class sizes, ample preparation time and collaboration with colleagues, resourced with modern tools and supported by school management that is constantly open to meaningful dialogue. None of this is sexy, it's hard work, sometimes costly - but if you truly are interested in improving educational quality for all students this is where you must first look.

If you address the problems of teacher retention you are directly addressing school quality.

November 2014 School levies and issues

165 school levies and issues will appear on the November 4th ballots across the state. The majority, 94, are renewals, with 58 asking for new or additional monies, the remainder are substitute or replacement levies.

The table below lists all the issues and levies that will appear on ballots. When you vote, we urge all the supporters of Join the Future to consider supporting their local schools.

County Subdivision Name Question Type Description
Allen Elida Local School District Levy Additional
Ashland Hillsdale Local School District Levy Renewal
Ashland Loudonville-Perrysville EVSD Levy Additional
Ashland Mapleton Local School District Income tax Additional
Ashtabula Ashtabula Area City School District Levy Renewal
Ashtabula Conneaut Area City School Distrct Levy Renewal
Ashtabula Grand Valley Local School District Levy Renewal
Ashtabula Grand Valley Local School District Levy Additional
Ashtabula Jefferson Area Local School District Levy Renewal
Ashtabula Pymatuning Valley Local School Dist Levy Renewal
Belmont Bridgeport Exempted Village SD Levy Renewal
Belmont Union Local School District Income tax Additional
Brown Ripley Union Lewis Huntington LSD Levy Additional
Carroll Brown Local School District Levy Renewal
Champaign Urbana City School District Bond N/A
Champaign Graham Local School District Levy Renewal
Champaign Mechanicsburg Ex Vill School Dist Levy Renewal
Champaign Triad Local School District Levy Additional
Clark Greenon Local School District Levy Additional
Clark Greenon Local School District Levy Renewal
Clark Southeastern Local School District Levy Renewal
Clark Tecumseh Local School District Levy Renewal
Clinton Clinton-Massie Local School District Levy Additional
Columbiana East Liverpool City School District Levy Renewal
Columbiana Salem City School District Levy Renewal
Columbiana Southern Local School District Levy Renewal
Coshocton River View Local School District Levy Renewal
Crawford Crestline Exempted Village SD Income tax Additional
Cuyahoga North Olmsted City School District Bond N/A
Cuyahoga Cleveland Municipal School Dist. Combo Additional
Cuyahoga North Royalton City School District Combo Additional
Cuyahoga Bedford City School District Levy Additional
Cuyahoga Berea City School District Levy Additional
Cuyahoga Brecksville-Broadview Hts. City SD Levy Renewal
Cuyahoga Cuyahoga Community College Levy Renewal
Cuyahoga Garfield Hts City School District Levy Additional
Darke Franklin Monroe Local School Dist Levy Renewal
Darke Ansonia Local School District Income tax Renewal
Darke Arcanum Butler Local School Dist Income tax Renewal
Defiance Northeastern Local School District Levy Renewal
Delaware Buckeye Valley Local School District Bond N/A
Delaware Delaware City School District Levy Renewal
Erie Sandusky City School District Combo Additional
Erie Huron City School District Levy Renewal
Erie Margaretta Local School District Levy Renewal
Fairfield Walnut Twp Local School District Levy Renewal
Fairfield Liberty Union-Thurston LSD Income tax Renewal
Fayette Miami Trace Local School District Combo Additional
Franklin Gahanna-Jefferson City School Dist Levy Additional
Franklin Grandview Heights City School Dist Levy Additional
Franklin New Albany-Plain Local School Dist Levy Additional
Geauga Ledgemont Local School District Levy Additional
Geauga Newbury Local School District Levy Additional
Geauga Berkshire Local School District Income tax Additional
Geauga Ledgemont Local School District Income tax Renewal
Greene Beavercreek City School District Levy Renewal
Hamilton Winton Woods City School District Bond N/A
Hamilton Forest Hills Local School District Combo Additional
Hamilton Cincinnati City School District Levy Renewal
Hamilton Lockland Local School District Levy Additional
Hamilton Mariemont City School District Levy Additional
Hancock Van Buren Local School District Bond N/A
Hancock Liberty-Benton Local School District Combo Additional
Harrison Conotton Valley Union LSD Levy Renewal
Harrison Conotton Valley Union LSD Levy Renewal
Harrison Harrison Hills City School District Levy Renewal
Henry Patrick Henry Local School District Levy Renewal
Highland Bright Local School District Income tax Additional
Huron Monroeville Local School District Combo Additional
Jefferson Edison Local School District Levy Renewal
Jefferson Toronto City School District Levy Renewal
Knox East Knox Local School District Combo Additional
Lake Fairport Harbor EVSD Levy Renewal
Lake Madison Local School District Levy Renewal
Lake Willoughby-Eastlake CSD Levy Renewal
Licking Southwest Licking Local School Dist Levy Substitute
Logan Indian Lake Local School District Levy Renewal
Lorain Keystone Local School District Levy Additional
Lorain Oberlin City School District Levy Additional
Lorain Sheffield-Sheffield Lake CSD Levy Additional
Lucas Maumee City School District Levy Additional
Lucas Oregon City School District Levy Additional
Lucas Springfield Local School District Levy Renewal
Lucas Springfield Local School District Levy Additional
Lucas Toledo City School District Levy Additional
Lucas Washington Local School District Levy Additional
Madison London City School District Income tax Renewal
Mahoning Boardman Local School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning Campbell City School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning Jackson Milton Local School District Levy Renewal
Mahoning South Range Local School District Levy Additional
Mahoning Springfield Local School District Income tax Renewal
Marion Pleasant Local School District Levy Renewal
Marion River Valley Local School District Levy Additional
Marion Tri-Rivers Jt. Vocational School Dist Levy Additional
Mercer Marion Local School District Levy Renewal
Miami Bethel Local School District Levy Renewal
Miami Miami East Local School District Levy Renewal
Miami Milton-Union Ex Village School Dist Levy Renewal
Miami Bethel Local School District Income tax Renewal
Miami Covington Ex Village School District Income tax Renewal
Monroe Switzerland of Ohio Local SD Income tax Additional
Montgomery Brookville Local School District Levy Renewal
Montgomery Brookville Local School District Levy Renewal
Montgomery Huber Heights City School District Levy Additional
Montgomery Jefferson Twp Local School District Levy Renewal
Montgomery Kettering City School District Levy Renewal
Montgomery Miamisburg City School District Levy Substitute
Montgomery Northmont City School Disitrict Levy Renewal
Montgomery New Lebanon Local School District Income tax Renewal
Muskingum Franklin Local School District Levy Renewal
Muskingum Zanesville City School District Levy Renewal
Ottawa Genoa Area Local School District Levy Additional
Perry Southern Local School District Levy Additional
Portage Field Local School District Levy Additional
Portage Field Local School District Levy Renewal
Portage Ravenna City School District Levy Additional
Portage Ravenna City School District Levy Additional
Portage Rootstown Local School District Levy Renewal
Portage Streetsboro City School District Levy Renewal
Portage Streetsboro City School District Levy Renewal
Portage Windham Ex Village School District Levy Renewal
Putnam Columbus Grove Local School Dist Income tax Renewal
Putnam Fort Jennings Local School District Income tax Renewal
Richland Lucas Local School District Levy Renewal
Richland Pioneer Jt. Vocational School Dist Levy Replacement
Ross Zane Trace Local School District Income tax Additional
Sandusky Woodmore Local School District Bond N/A
Sandusky Bellevue City School District Levy Renewal
Sandusky Clyde-Green Springs Ex Village SD Levy Renewal
Sandusky Gibsonburg Ex Village School District Levy Renewal
Shelby Jackson Center Local School Dist Combo Additional
Shelby Anna Local School District Levy Renewal
Stark Massillon City School District Bond N/A
Stark Fairless Local School District Levy Additional
Stark Marlington Local School District Levy Renewal
Stark Osnaburg Local School District Levy Additional
Stark Tuslaw Local School District Levy Renewal
Stark Northwest Local School District Income tax Renewal
Summit Coventry Local School District Levy Renewal
Summit Cuyahoga Falls City School District Levy Renewal
Summit Mogadore Local School District Levy Additional
Summit Springfield Local School District Levy Renewal
Summit Springfield Local School District Levy Renewal
Summit Springfield Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Lakeview Local School District Combo Additional
Trumbull Bloomfield-Mespo Local School Dis Levy Renewal
Trumbull Bristol Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Bristol Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Howland Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Lordstown Local School District Levy Additional
Trumbull McDonald Local School District Levy Additional
Trumbull Mathews Local School Distrct Levy Renewal
Trumbull Southington Local School District Levy Renewal
Trumbull Trumbull Career & Tech Center Levy Renewal
Tuscarawas New Philadelphia City School Dist Levy Renewal
Tuscarawas Newcomerstown Ex Village SD Levy Renewal
Warren Warren Co Jt Voca School District Levy Replacement
Washington Frontier Local School District Levy Additional
Wayne Southeast Local School District Levy Renewal
Williams Edon Northwest Local School Dist Levy Renewal
Wood Perrysburg Ex Village School Dist Bond N/A
Wood Lake Local School District Levy Renewal
Wood Rossford Ex Village School District Levy Additional

The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss on This Novembers Election

Sent to us by Jeanne Melvin, OEA-Retired Teacher from Hilliard

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Theodor Seuss Geisel was one of the greatest American writers, cartoonists, and political activists who ever lived. He had this natural ability to present philosophical concepts through children’s literature that provoked thought at many different levels. Whether one works with elementary, middle, or high school students, Dr. Seuss is a favorite resource for helping both kids and grown-ups alike to understand many issues in our world.

Three years ago, educators from all over the state joined with police officers, firefighters, and other public employees to fight against Ohio Senate Bill 5, an unjust law that would have stripped away public workers’ collective bargaining rights. "Collective bargaining" is the mutually beneficial obligation of public employers and their employees to negotiate in good faith on wages, hours, terms, and other conditions of employment, and people were outraged that these rights were being crushed by their elected officials.

Rallies and petition drives against Senate Bill 5 brought unprecedented numbers of teachers out of their living rooms and into the spotlight. Educators made considerable numbers of phone calls and sent many emails to their legislators decrying this unfair attack. Teachers sent letters of concern to the editors of every Ohio newspaper about what was being written into the state budget. All of this teamwork contributed to the issue being put on the ballot, and in November of 2011, voters overwhelming repealed Senate Bill 5.

In the aftermath of SB 5, many teachers remained politically active and began to keep a watchful eye on everything that was happening at the Statehouse- not just legislation that affected the rights of public workers. If Ohio lawmakers could so easily follow an outside agenda that enacted policies detrimental to public servants, then continued vigilance from their constituents was the logical course of action. The rights of all Ohioans were at stake.

That outside agenda came from a corporate bill mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly known as ALEC. Because of gerrymandering, most of Ohio’s legislators belong to ALEC, the secretive organization of lawmakers and corporations that has taken over the Ohio Statehouse. ALEC’s corporate policy-makers create bills, such as Senate Bill 5, for ALEC legislators to sponsor and get passed into laws in states all over the country. ALEC bills erode worker rights, consumer rights, and the rights of citizens injured or killed on the job. ALEC promotes the privatization of public agencies and the outsourcing of jobs, and the corporate-funded group was behind efforts to prevent implementation of healthcare reform, such as Medicaid Expansion in Ohio.[1]

ALEC’s top priority is to promote a private for-profit education model- in 2013 alone, 139 education bills written by ALEC were introduced in state legislatures around the U.S., and 31 of those have already become law. Unfortunately, most of Ohio’s Republican legislators are deeply entrenched in following the ALEC playbook and are quick to promote its anti-public school agenda. Look at all of the educational reform that’s recently been put into place that will diminish Ohio’s public schools through high stakes testing, school grade cards, OTES, private school voucher programs, and virtual learning. These are all ALEC initiatives.[2]

Many educators still care enough to be proactive about Ohio politics, but a number of them don’t pay attention to political initiatives anymore unless they directly affect them. They neglect to sign petitions and attend rallies meant to support people’s rights because of claims that they’re too busy to keep track of current legislative campaigns. Some teachers don’t find it necessary to contact their representatives or write letters to newspapers to express their disapproval of unjust laws. Several of them even vote for the same ALEC legislators that have worked to destroy public education in Ohio, even though a little bit of research would help them to express their displeasure of ALEC by voting out its politicians.[3]

The midterm election is upon us, and with it comes the re-election campaigns of many of those politicians who continue to follow the ALEC agenda, including Gov. John Kasich, an alumnus of ALEC who has been an important part of its initiatives over the years. Capitalizing on economic turmoil throughout our state and country, Kasich has worked diligently to further ALEC’s #1 priority, the privatization of many of Ohio’s public entities, since he took office in 2011. To help enable the expansion of his private school voucher program to move forward, the governor and his legislature first created financial hardship through drastic budget cuts, just as in other ALEC-controlled states. Richard Lee Colvin, director of D.C. think tank Education Sector, said: What’s particularly unfortunate about this wave of voucher programs now is that they come at a time when states are so strapped and they are cutting the basic funding for public education. So, we’re undermining public education by our state budgets and then we’re undermining through these voucher programs.[4]

Ohio teachers should heed the wisdom of Dr. Seuss and renew their commitment to standing up for our system of public education, instead of standing by as spectators. Their most powerful tool to positively impact public education is to make well-informed choices for candidates and issues during this very important election that will conclude on November 4, 2014. Vote for candidates who value our public schools, educators, and students.[5]

Times have changed- we teachers cannot afford to just close our doors and work in a vacuum any longer. Unless people like us care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

The Transparent Desperation of Corporate Education Reformers to Privatize Education

The Corporate Education Reformers are becoming increasingly desperate in their goal to privatize public education.

Their original concept was to create a system whereby public schools and their teachers could be made to look like spectacular failures, thereby opening the door to charters schools, vouchers, outsourced curriculum, for-profit testing and the diminishment of teacher unions.

This plan called for high stakes testing, on a massive scale as we have detailed on Join the Future for over 3 years now. Their plan hit a snag. No one who actually has a stake in public education, from parents, students, teachers and administrators thought this "plan" was a very good one.

We'll let one of the biggest Corporate reform boosters explain their failure to enact their agenda:
a great many parents — and a huge fraction of teachers — appear to have had enough. They grump, with some justice, that
  • Too much school time is given over to test prep — and the pressure to lift scores leads to cheating and other unsavory practices.
  • Subjects and accomplishments that aren’t tested — art, creativity, leadership, independent thinking, etc. — are getting squeezed if not discarded.
  • Teachers are losing their freedom to practice their craft, to make classes interesting and stimulating, to act like professionals.
  • The curricular homogenizing that generally follows from standardized tests and state (or national) standards represents an undesirable usurpation of school autonomy, teacher freedom, and local control by distant authorities.
  • Judging teachers and schools by pupil test scores is inaccurate and unfair, given the kids’ different starting points and home circumstances, the variation in class sizes and school resources, and the many other services that schools and teachers are now expected to provide their students.
If that all sounds familiar it is because that's what everyone opposed to the profiteers have been saying all along.

The high stakes testing and "accountability" however was never their primary goal, so jettisoning it in order to save their real agenda becomes unfortunate but necessary.

From the same article, comes their new prescription:
1. Individualization.
2. Technology
3. Quality choices.
4. Attaching the money to the child.

More school "choice", more outsourcing of teaching to technology and more money for charters and vouchers. In their desperation, they are revealing their true agenda.

If it was ever about quality and accountability, why would they now argue for even more money to flow to Ohio's failing charter school boondoggle? Why ask for more money for vouchers when the current demand doesn't come close to what's being offered? And if anyone thinks computers are primed to replace teachers in the classroom - go ask students in Reynoldsburg how relevant and rigorous their online education has been these last 3 weeks.

It's time that the people responsible for creating the current mess took a timeout. We don't need another Corporate Education Reform "reboot", we need a whole new conversation.
(c) Join the Future