When Reynoldsburg teachers issued their 10 day strike notice to the board of education, they did so saying,
As front line educators, we have listened to our students, our parents, and our community. We have heard the calls for class size caps. We have heard the calls for addressing our teacher turnover issue. We have brought these issues to the bargaining table time and time again, and each time Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning and the Board have refused to address these crucial concerns, instead continuing a divisive ideological crusade that now leaves us with no choice but to exercise our right to strike.
We thought we would take a look at the ratio of teachers to students in Reynoldsburg City Schools. What we discovered is shocking. Reynoldsburg has the worst ratio of all school districts in the state. We looked at the 2012-13 enrollment and teacher data from ODE
||# Full Time teachers
||Teacher Student Ratio
|Grandview Heights City
|Upper Arlington City
|Groveport Madison Local
|New Albany-Plain Local
|Canal Winchester Local
Where the Franklin county average is 15 students for every teacher, in Reynoldsburg that number exceeds 19! This is a board and Superintendent that is out of touch and the sooner they realize that and start listening to their teachers the better. The Reynoldsburg community deserves better.
Via The Center for International Education Benchmarking
Unlike the top-performing countries on the 2012 PISA, the United States stands out for the amount of external testing it requires for all students. As the chart below shows, the United States is the only country among this set to require annual testing in primary and middle schools in reading and mathematics. A more typical pattern among the top-performers is a required gateway exam, or an exam that allows a student to move on to the next phase of education, at the end of primary school, the end of lower secondary school and the end of upper secondary school. This is true of Canada (Ontario), China (Shanghai), Estonia, Poland and Singapore. In some of these cases, the secondary school exams are used to determine placement in the next level of schooling such as in Singapore and Shanghai where the lower school-leaving exam determines placement in upper secondary school. And in Poland, Shanghai and Singapore the upper secondary academic exam functions as an admission exam for university. This differs from the United States where annual tests are used primarily for school and teacher accountability purposes.
As the United States embarks on implementing tests to measure students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards, it would be wise to keep in mind these very different models of not only test schedules, but format and purpose. The tests in the top-performing countries come at key gateways when students advance from one school to another and have a purpose that is clearly understood by students, parents and teachers.
To say the parent who sent us this Dublin City Schools testing schedule was concerned is an understatement. One quick look and you can understand why. Over 170 different testing regimines are outlined in this schedule. There's barely a month in the calaendar when some kind of testing is not happening somewhere in the distrcit. Much of it is state mandated, even for pre-schoolers and kindergarten students.
You can see from the list (pre and post growth measuring) that much of the tesitng is for the purposes of generating value-add data, so teachers can be ranked and sorted.
Back in June, out-going NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity.Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”
New NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, went further
All of this testing means our students have less time to learn—and we are stealing it from them for these tests. A recent survey found that students are spending as much as 30 percent of their class time preparing for and taking these unaligned tests. We are stealing so much learning time from our kids, their parents are going to have to start asking, “What were you tested on in school today?” instead of, “What did you learn in school today?” Our students are so busy taking tests that they don’t have time to learn the material we are testing them on!
As educators, we know that this amount of testing—and the serious consequences attached to these tests—is toxic for our students. As they enter the adult world, our students will need to have good writing and math skills, creative problem-solving skills, and critical thinking skills. But I doubt they will spend up to 30 percent of their time filling in bubbles on a toxic test.
Here's the list of toxic testing students at Dublin will be asked to particpate in this coming school year
2014-15 Assessment Calendar - By Grade
The Reynoldsburg School Board held its first public meeting since the district’s teachers voted to authorize a strike two weeks ago. As with the previous meeting, the venue was packed with teachers, students and community members, all opposed to the boards contract proposals. They had a simple message - the community deserves better.
In two packed board meetings now, not a single person has come forward to express any support for the 4 members of the Reynoldsburg school board pushing this extremist agenda. But instead of listening to the mounting chorus of objections to their plans, they continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on out of town lawyer and strike breaking firms like Huffmaster, which the board voter 4-0 last night to hire in case a strike occurs.
The teachers, members of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, issued a statement August 8 after authorizing their bargaining team to call a strike at its discretion. Their 10-day notice of intent to strike, said the teachers, is a “continuation of our fight for the schools that Reynoldsburg students deserve, including a reasonable class size limit and a means of addressing the unprecedented teacher turnover in our district.”
Parent Debbie Dunlap, who has three children attending Reynoldsburg schools, said community backing of teachers has increased. “The support continues to grow. We hope the board members are truly hearing. We keep reminding them we are the stakeholders. And we’re not a few; we’re many.”
The teachers and the district failed to reach an agreement after meeting with a federal mediator this month. There is no word on when the mediator will be called back. The current contract expired July 31.
Since January, 54 teachers have left the district, including four whose resignations the board approved tonight. The total represents 20 percent of the district’s teachers. Twenty-eight teachers left during the same period the year before. The district has 6,200 students.
Parents of students are growing increasingly critical of the board’s refusal to heed community input.
In a letter to the school board, parent Beth Thompson wrote:
I firmly believe that this contract proposal will push high-quality teachers far away from Reynoldsburg; the very same teachers who have pushed our students and schools to become a model of innovation and to earn marks like Excellent and Excellent with Distinction in recent years. Basing a teacher’s pay increase on merit is an insult to teachers who collaborate, who we love and who treat our children with love and respect. This proposal disrespects the level of commitment these teachers have brought to our children for years.
Teacher and REA spokesperson Kathy Evans told local news station NBC 4, “Of course we don’t want to strike, but our students, teachers and community deserve a contract that invests in classroom priorities and builds a strong foundation for student learning.”
Students returned for the new school year August 13. Teachers, said Dunlap, continue to pour their energies into their students, regardless of the board’s actions.
“It has been very, very stressful for teachers,” said Dunlap. “But what has happened time and time again is teachers telling us, ‘Thank you. We couldn’t do this without your support.”
Dunlap said parents have been “awakened,” and she predicted community support will grow moving forward. “This momentum will not stop, even with a new contract. What happens here will affect not only our children but other children in Ohio and across the country, as well as educators.”
The Dispatch recently published an op-ed titled "Rethinking teacher pay", a piece so terrible it could only be a product of ideology or ignorance, and one would hope that one of the largest papers in the state isn't ignorant. But we ought to examine the facts.
The Reynoldsburg City School District, site of many innovative projects in recent years, is in the middle of what may be its biggest experiment yet: exploring whether a well-run school district and its teachers can come to terms on a teacher-compensation plan that is meant to reward talent richly, even as it eliminates certain guarantees on which teachers have relied for decades.
By "certain guarantees" the Dispatch means healthcare. Obfuscating the radical nature of this "innovative offer" by the Reynoldsburg school board in the very first paragraph isn't a good start. We'll also draw reference to the fact that the district, thanks to its teachers, is rated A on the latest report card. This will be important later.
Instead, teachers would get a pay increase — or not — based entirely on their performance rating under the state’s new teacher-evaluation system. Those who come with especially good track records or fill critical needs or take on projects beyond their basic jobs could be eligible for bonuses of up to $30,000. Instead of a health-insurance card, teachers would get a lump sum of cash with which they could decide what kind of insurance policy to buy.
Merit Pay - based upon a flawed evaluation system that is under constant flux. Who wouldn't want their pay determined by a students test score from a single test on a single day - and then have those test results subject to a secret, constantly changing formula - applied unevenly throughout both a district and statewide? Even the Gates Foundation has called for a delay in the use of evaluations for these kinds of purposes.
Furthermore, while the Dispatch references up to $30,000 - the typical increase is far, far less. Indeed, the $30,000 isn't a performance based pay rise at all, but instead a bonus for teachers who perform jobs beyond the classroom - hardly something new. Extra pay for extra work.
On the issue of health insurance, the district has yet to specify how much of a cash lump sum educators would receive, and if this would be pro-rated based upon family etc. How attractive of a district would Reynoldsburg be to teachers with families if the provision of healthcare was denied? How long would experienced educators stick around?
Reynoldsburg teachers say they already have sacrificed, by forgoing scheduled raises and agreeing to larger class sizes during a financial crunch.
Say? Why doesn't the Dispatch report this as a fact, for it surely is. This is not a he said/she said proposition. This isn't an issue that can be cast as teachers simply wanting step increases.
Most of all, she wants to attract and retain top talent by offering premium salaries. She can do this only if she is freed from the table of longevity-based increases that long has ruled school districts.
How on earth does the superintendent expect to attract any talent by offering no healthcare, and only arbitrary and potentially capricious pay increases based on secret student test based systems? The true fact is that a record number of Reynoldsburg teachers are now leaving the district after hearing of this folly
The graph above shows attrition in the district this year to over double previous years. This "innovative proposal" isn't attractive and wishing it to be so isn't going to make it so.
As more and more children come to schools without the support from home that bolstered past generations of students, schools have struggled to find ways to overcome the challenges. Of all the things schools can do and provide, an effective teacher has proved to be the most important.
Remember when we said we would come back to that "A" rating? Reynoldsburg, with its traditional pay and benefits structure is already providing an excellent education for its students, which includes a growing number of challenged demographic groups. Not to sound like a status quo supporting anti-reformer - but if it''s not broken what are we looking to fix?
In most professional fields, people are recognized for superior performance and their salaries reflect it. If education can find a way to elevate teaching to that level of regard, children could benefit immensely.
The trouble with this corporate point of view is that it simply isn't supported by the evidence. Study after study, trial after trail, deployment after deployment proves that merit pay in the education system doesn't just fail to life student performance, it damages the system by created a greater incentive for cheating, teaching to the test, non-collaboration and diminished workforce morale.
You can read a pretty good synopsis of some of the issues here at Frakonomics.
We began by asking if the Dispatch was ideologically or ignorantly predisposed to supporting the Reynoldsburg school boards hair brained scheme - after going through their missives step-by-step it seems like it is a little of both
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) yesterday made chilling statements in response to the Horizon Science Academy charter school scandals being reported. ODE spokesperson John Charlton had this to say (reported in Gongwer)
Mr. Charlton said it's possible the educators who came forward could be investigated by the Office of Professional Conduct themselves. Those referrals and investigations remain confidential under law, however, until action is taken against an educator's license.
It is unconscionable that ODE would threaten any whistleblowers, rather than get down to the business of a real investigation of these charter schools. If ever there was an example of the need for educators to have due process protections provided by a union, this is it.
ODE has sat on information regarding these charter schools all year. Indeed, you can read Matt Blair's allegations going back to at least the beginning of this year, as reported by Dianne Ravitch and Bill Phillis of Ohio E&A.
In June, Plunderbund.com reported on the whitewashing of this investigation by ODE
"We would like to remind educators that they do have a responsibility as mandatory reporters and certainly we hope that the educators that testified were not withholding information for this political event that they pulled at the board meeting," he said.
In a Hannah news report yesterday, ODE spokesperson John Charlton when even further in smearing these whislteblowers
In an email sent Monday to members of State Board of Education of Ohio, Mr. Blair said he witnessed exposed wiring, mold in the school building and school administrators tampering with standardized tests.
Rather than look in the matter, Ohio’s top education officials launched a phony investigation, complete with instructions to those answering questions to keep their responses brief and “positive.” Translation: Dispute everything Mr. Blair said.
Public records show that the office of Dr. Richard Ross, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction, forwarded questions that he wanted sponsors of the schools to answer. The questions are clearly NOT written to determine whether Blair’s observations were accurate.
For example, the only effort to address the cheating is this question:
“Does the school have a written testing security protocol and does your oversight include confirmation that the protocol is followed?”
The sponsors assured Dr. Ross and all of the schools have policies in place and, “We do not have any reason to believe that this is an active concern.”
Not any hint of whether anyone even asked about the specific cheating allegation: A teacher who came in on a weekend to find a group of Turkish men marking up standardized tests.
ODE spokesman John Charlton said the case is a reminder of educators' obligation to respond promptly to certain situations, and he was critical of the way the teachers brought their concerns to the board via the routine public participation session at the board meeting.
If ODE had acted when they first learned of these allegations, educators would not have had to go the State Board of Ed and give a public accounting of their experiences. Instead, ODE continues to stonewall and whitewash this scandal involving politically connected charter school operators.
Heads need to roll at ODE. Both for the whitewashing of this scandal and for the chilling response sent to whistleblowers. Here at JTF we have no confidence in ODE to deal adequately and transparently with this scandal.
"General concern for the welfare of our children, it does not come in the form of a choreographed political stunt," Charlton said.