Teachers stay strong in Strongsville

The teachers strike in Strongsville, Ohio is now entering its 5th week. Since the Strongsville Board of Education made their last offer, the Strongsville Education Association has made 3 counter offers that have been met with silence. The board's resistance to talk has been so extreme that a court had to order them to release public records. With this as a backdrop, we decided to travel up to Strongsville.

When we arrived we were met with the sight of hundreds of determined educators walking the picket line

After talking to them and listening to their side of the strike, it was clear to us that even after being out on strike for over a month, they were determined to secure a fair contract. It was also clear that the Strongsville board of education is being guided by special interests with an agenda and not the interests of the students and the community. This became even more apparent later in the day.

As the teachers marched up an down the sidewalk of the very busy road, they were receiving a tremendous amount of support from passersby,both in cars and on foot (a number of parents were walking the picket lines with the teachers).

Around 1pm, in the wind and cold, teachers and their supporters march to a common area to gather around a gazebo. Sen. Sherrod Brown was scheduled to address them.

At least 1,000 people turned out for a rally on Strongsville’s square attended by members of other unions.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Avon Democrat, called on Frazee to kick-start the stalled negotiations.

“Most importantly, students are not well-served when both sides are not sitting at the bargaining table,“ Brown said.

“Strongsville students deserve a settlement – now. But a settlement can’t be reached if the two parties aren’t talking. That’s why I joined teachers today – who told me how they want to be back in the classroom – and why I will keep in contact with the school board,” Brown said.

After Sen. Brown spoke, SEA President Linscott addressed her members and the crowd. She laid out the clear reasons why the strike has happened and why it continues. But more importantly she offered the board yet another opportunity to resolve the strike fairly.
In 2009 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration should it be needed.
Again, in 2010 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration. In both cases that course of action wasn't needed as agreements were made.
Yesterday, SEA once again offered to end the strike immediately if the board agreed to binding interest arbitration. The proposal can be read in full below.

Strongsville E.A Binding Arbitration offer

Unlike in 2009 and 2010, the Strongsville board rejected this offer before the end of the day, once again demonstrating bad faith and a motive other than ending the month long strike. If their goal is to try and break the SEA, and it appears that that is their goal, they are going to fail. The hundreds of teachers we met, saw and talked ot yesterday were determined and resolved to continue their strike until a fair labor contract is agreed to.

The Federal mediator has called both parties back to the negotiating table today. Pressure on the Board is mounting as conditions inside Strongsville schools is deteriorating
Dozens of parents and students fed up with the Strongsville teachers strike took their pleas for the school board to negotiate and find common ground with the teachers union to City Council’s April 1 meeting.

Six Strongsville High School students recounted concerning conditions inside the school – overfilled classrooms, substitutes who did not know the material they were teaching and were not told where the regular teacher left off and an abundance of movies and study halls peppering the eight-period school day have become the norm, they said.
[...]
Pam Mullen, who has three children in the district, says her two youngest children at Muraski Elementary School are on IEPs for speech and reading.

“For over a week they did not receive the help they needed,” Mullen said. “My daughter tried her best to keep up, but it was too much. It led to melt downs and stomach aches.”

Mullen said she received a letter from the district saying no speech therapists had been hired yet, and she could not afford to hire one herself.

“This past month has been frustrating for my family,” she said.

Moser said some of her classmates who are on IEPs were left to fend for themselves at a time that was crucial for not just them, but the school district – Ohio Graduation Tests, which took place March 11-15, during the second week of the strike.

“Strongsville City Schools was thriving before this,” Moser said. “Now there’s no learning, no love and hallways are filled with dread.”

Junior Mathangi Sridharan painted the picture for those students who are in AP classes, high-level courses the district has struggled to fill.

Sridharan said students have been going over the material that will be covered in tests given next month by themselves – she and two other students have even taught some classes.
[...]
Other students spoke about the void of honors classes and extracurricular activities, including concerts and plays the students had spent months preparing for, but a common theme came up between parents and students, alike – the strike is on the brink of doing irreparable harm to the community.
The board has now had 4 opportunities offered to it by the striking teachers and has remained silent, refusing to negotiate in good faith. Let's hope they see sense and reason, and find a way to end this strike in a way that is fair to everyone, students, teachers and the community at large.

You can stay up to date on the strongsville strike at the SEA Facebook page, and on Twitter.

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Exposing the real "Right to Work" supporters agenda

Efforts to pass "Right to Work" laws go back decades (a measure was defeated in Ohio in 1958, by the massive margin of 63.3% No to 36.7% yes), and have always been pursued by monied interests looking to put a dent in the power of workers ability to stand up for themselves and each other through collective action.

It should not be lost on anyone that the major backers of this latest anti-union push are billionaires and big business, none of whom actually belong to a union. Having seen previous "right to work" efforts defeated, the extreme right, and their big business backers have had to send their latest effort through a rebranding exercise and they have come up with a new catchy title "work place freedom".

Who doesn't love freedom? Well apparently the very people promoting the effort. LimaOhio.com reported on a meeting of Tea Party members discussing "work place freedom" and why they were pursuing it
Speakers at an Allen County Patriots meeting Thursday made the case that the National Education Association abuses teacher dues to support a liberal agenda that disrespects Christian values.
[...]
According to Boyatt, NEA gave close to $15 million to advocacy groups in the 2011-12 school year and $18 million in 2010-11. The advocacy groups, she said, included the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Human Rights Campaign, Women’s Campaign Forum and Rainbow Push Coalition.
From there, it got uglier, much uglier
Harvey said the NEA has supported an “immoral, deviant and destructive” gay agenda for at least 25 years, citing its gay and lesbian caucus started in 1987. Harvey criticized the union for supporting a gay and lesbian history month, diversity training that included homosexuality, and pro-homosexual school counseling. She said the NEA has asked schools to protect students and staff from sexual orientation harassment and discrimination and has replaced the word “tolerance” with acceptance and respect.

“Kids are being trained as activists now,” she said.

Harvey said the NEA has voted to lobby for same-sex unions and said petitions are currently circulating to overturn the 2004 Ohio marriage amendment, which stated that that only a union between a man and woman would be recognized as a valid marriage. The OEA opposed the amendment.
This is why the Tea Party in Ohio wants to pursue "right to work" legislation, not to create any kid of "freedom", but to enable their ongoing bigotry by attacking organizations that have a long history of standing up for equality and fairness. Public opinion polls show strong majorities now supporting marriage equalityand how out of the mainstream these Tea Party "Patriots" truly are.

The NEA and its members should be rightly proud of their support for equality, even when it was unpopular to do so.

Big business backers of this effort ought to take a closer look at who some of their allies are. The world has moved on from 1958, but voters are likely to deliver an equally stinging defeat to the purveyors of this ugly bigoted agenda.

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School funding disaster in the making

The Dispatch may have published this story on April Fools Day, but it is no joke. Lawmakers aren’t near a school-funding resolution
Faced with an unpopular formula, a fast-approaching deadline, and an uncertain amount of money, Rep. Gerald Stebelton doubts a final school-funding plan can be crafted by the time the two-year state budget is approved.
We have some sympathy for Rep Stableton. The Governor crafted his ill conceived defunding plan in secret, with little or no input from any stakeholders. The Governor then spent over a week trying to bamboozle everyone with his ridiculous claims of what his funding plan would do, only to have those claims fall to pieces once details of the defunding plan emerged.

The Lancaster Republican said the plan is for the House to pass “something,” and then send it to the Senate in April for more work by the June 30 deadline. But with time running short, he thinks it’s unrealistic that it can be fully resolved and provide school districts with answers about how funding will work in the future.
This is where our sympathy begins to run out. The GOP dominated legislature are struggling to devise an adequate and equitable funding system because they don't want to commit the money necessary to make that possible. Consequently they are left trying to move an inadequate amount of funding around in the hopes that they can find some magical distribution that works.

They are never going to find that solution at the currently proposed funding levels - levels which fall below those seen in 2009. Instead of adequately funding public education, the Republicans have an income tax cut fetish that few others support.

It is troubling that a Republican legislature is once again going to punt on creating a funding formula that works, and instead continue to lock in funding levels that are woefully inadequate.

And if you need any more proof that Michelle Rhee's billionaire funded StudentsFirst organization is nothing more than an anti-tax front group, this should do the trick
StudentsFirst, an education-reform organization founded by former Washington, D.C., schools’ chief Michelle Rhee, has proposed reworking the formula while spending no additional money.
We are not aware of any other pro-public education organization that thinks a workable solution can be found at the currently proposed funding levels. And as for Dick Ross, the architect of the currently proposed disaster of a funding plan, the State Board of Education just made him the State Superintendent.

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Teachers Love Their Lives, but Struggle in the Workplace

A new Gallup poll finds
Teachers have high personal wellbeing, as evidenced by their high life evaluations and emotional wellbeing scores, and this may prove beneficial to their students and the broader community. It is unclear whether the relatively higher scores of teachers on several measures of wellbeing are because working in that profession enhances one's wellbeing, or if people who have higher wellbeing in general seek out teaching professions. Prior research, however, has demonstrated the significant role that the workplace plays in wellbeing outcomes. Still, teacher's low workplace wellbeing, relative to other professional occupations, indicates school and community leaders have important issues to address in the school workplace in order for teachers and students to reach their full potential. It is absolutely critical to raise teachers' workplace engagement, because their engagement is the No. 1 predictor and driver of student engagement, which Gallup research shows impacts student wellbeing and academic success. The positive news is that these workplace struggles can be addressed. Teachers and school leaders need to work together to improve the work environment.

Despite these workplace challenges, teachers love their work and the life it produces

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How Do High-Performing Nations Evaluate Teachers?

Who decides if a teacher is effective and how is that determination made? School systems across the United States are struggling to answer that question as they try to design and implement teacher evaluation systems that are fair and accurate. It’s no easy task and is not limited to public schools in this country. School systems around the world are tackling the same issue and are finding consensus among education stakeholders to be elusive.

Teacher evaluations were the main topic of discussion at the 2013 International Summit on the Teacher Profession (ISTP) Summit held last week in Amsterdam. Now in its third year, the ISTP brought together leaders from teacher unions and education ministries to discuss issues around teacher quality, specifically the criteria used to determine teacher effectiveness and its purpose.

In most nations, teacher evaluation systems are essentially a “work in progress,” says Andreas Schleicher of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Schleicher, who attended the ISTP, is the principal author of the study that was presented at the summitt. The report, Teachers for the 21st Century: Using Evaluations to Improve Teaching, takes a look at how different nations are tackling this thorny issue (or not tackling it) and identifying specific models that appear to work – that is, have buy-in from key stakeholders and can point to demonstrable results in student achievement. Because consensus is so frustratingly elusive, most nations are treading carefully, although there is widespread acknowledgement that improved evaluation systems have to be on the menu of education policy reforms.

Of the 28 countries surveyed in the OECD report, 22 have formal policy frameworks in place at the national level to regulate teacher evaluations. The six education systems that do not have such frameworks include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, but teachers in the countries still received professional feedback. In Denmark, for example, teachers receive feedback from their school administrators once a year. In Norway, teacher-appraisal policies are designed and implemented at the local or school level. In Iceland, evaluation is left to the discretion of individual schools and school boards.

[readon2 url="http://neatoday.org/2013/03/25/how-do-high-performing-nations-evaluate-teachers/"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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Is Ohio ready for computer testing?

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report on how Ohio schools are not going to be ready for the new online PARCC tests that are scheduled to be deployed next year.
Ohio public schools appear to be far short of having enough computers to have all their students take new state-mandated tests within a four-week period beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

“With all the reductions in education funds over the last several years and the downturn in the economy, districts have struggled to be able to bring their (computer technology) up to the level that would be needed for this,” said Barbara Shaner, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

Districts could seek state permission to deliver the new tests on paper if they can’t round up enough computers, tablets and gadgets to go around, Jim Wright, director of curriculum and assessment for the Ohio Department of Education, said. A student taking a paper test could be at a disadvantage, though. While the paper tests won’t have substantially different questions, a student taking the test online will have the benefit of audio and visual prompts as well as online tasks that show their work on computer, said Chad Colby, a spokesman for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
The state really does need to step up and help districts fund this costly mandate that has been foisted upon them. Added to this, the computer industry is going through significant changes as more and more people move away from the traditional desktops and laptops in favor of the simpler more portable tablets. School districts could find themselves having to make costly investments again in the near future if they pick the wrong technologies.

The article makes note of the possibility of paper based test takers being at a possible disadvantage over those taking the computer based tests. There has been a significant amount of research over the years on this, and the results seem to indicate the opposite effect - that computer based test takers score lower than paper based tests.
The comparability of test scores based on online versus paper testing has been studied for more than 20 years. Reviews of the comparability literature research were reported by Mazzeo and Harvey (1988), who reported mixed results, and Drasgow (1993), who concluded that there were essentially no differences in examinee scores by mode-of-administration for power tests. Paek (2005) provided a summary of more recent comparability research and concluded that, in general, computer and paper versions of traditional multiple-choice tests are comparable across grades and academic subjects. However, when tests are timed, differential speededness can lead to mode effects. For example, a recent study by Ito and Sykes (2004) reported significantly lower performance on timed web-based norm-referenced tests at grades 4-12 compared with paper versions. These differences seemed to occur because students needed more time on the web-based test than they did on the paper test. Pommerich (2004) reported evidence of mode differences due to differential speededness in tests given at grades 11 and 12, but in her study online performance on questions near the end of several tests was higher than paper performance on these same items. She hypothesized that students who are rushed for time might actually benefit from testing online because the computer makes it easier to respond and move quickly from item to item.

A number of studies have suggested that no mode differences can be expected when individual test items can be presented within a single screen (Poggio, Glassnapp, Yang, & Poggio, 2005; Hetter, Segall & Bloxom, 1997; Bergstrom, 1992; Spray, Ackerman, Reckase, & Carlson, 1989). However, when items are associated with text that requires scrolling, such as is typically the case with reading tests, studies have indicated lower performance for students testing online (O’Malley, 2005; Pommerich, 2004; Bridgeman, Lennon, & Jackenthal, 2003; Choi & Tinkler, 2002; Bergstrom, 1992)

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