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Senate budget - good, bad, ugly

The much anticipated Senate budget, when it comes to education policy, could be titled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". We've already discussed the ugly, let's take a look at the good and the bad.

The Good

The statewide parent trigger, proposed by the governor and eliminated by the house, is not proposed by the Senate either and appears dead, for now.

The Senate also includes a fix to HB555 and the onerous teacher evaluation provisions it contained. Here's what the fix proposes
Prescribes that the student academic growth factor must account for 35% (rather than 50% as under current law) of each evaluation under the standards-based state framework for evaluation of teachers developed by the State Board of Education and permits a school district to attribute an additional percentage to the student academic growth factor, not to exceed 15% of each evaluation.

Specifies that, when calculating student academic growth for a teacher evaluation, students who have had 30 or more excused or unexcused absences for the school year must be excluded (rather than excluding students with 60 or more unexcused absences as under current law).
Ohio Revised Code labels a student as a chronic truant if they are absent 14 days, so 30 days is still a high number of absences to allow, but it is certainly better than the ridiculous 60 days in current law. The reduction in the use of VAM to 35% from 50% is a welcome improvement.

The Governor proposed eliminating the single salary schedule, and the House concurred. The Senate however strikes this proposal from their budget. We suspect there will be pressure applied to put this back in. Educators and support professional should continue to apply their own pressure on legislators to keep it out.

The Senate also eliminated the home-school freeloading provision the House added that would have allowed home schoolers to participate in district extra-curricular activities at no expense.

The Bad

The Governor proposed a massive statewide voucher expansion effort, the House concurred, and the Senate has left the proposal in too. With massive opposition to this proposal we were a little surprised the Senate left this unnecessary proposal in their budget.

Charter schools get a number of additional free passes from the Senate, including an e-school exemption for phys ed., an additional qualifying condition for vouchers, and a provision that would make charter school closures more difficult as LSC notes it "May be more difficult to close community schools after July 1, 2013 (compared with current law after that date).". The Senate also eliminates a charter school teacher quality provision for charters populated primarily with students with disabilities. A number of other smaller provisions setting charter schools on a longer path to failure are also propsed by the Senate, such as:
Exempts students of chartered nonpublic schools accredited through the Independent School Association of the Central States from passing the end-of-course examinations as a prerequisite for graduation from high school.
The Charter school business doesn't contribute millions of dollars a year to Republican politicians for nothing.

The challenging

The Senate adds a new levy type aimed at school safety
Authorizes school districts to levy a property tax exclusively for school safety and security purposes. Requires the levy to comply with the same requirements that apply to general school district levies in excess of the 10-mill limitation.
A good intentioned proposal aimed at lowering violence in schools, but there should be concern that a safety levy might reduce local taxpayers appetites for funding levies for normal school operations, the core purpose of schools themselves. School districts will have to be mindful in how they approach this issue.

Here's the full comparative document of the education section of the budget

Senate Sub HB59

Rejected Kasich formula coming back?

The Ohio Senate revealed its version of the Budget, and it contained a number of changes to education policy proposals proposed by the Governor and the House. What it didn't contain was a school funding formula, for that we are told we will have to wait another week. A familiar story.

Based upon reporting, there should be some serious cause for concern. The Toledo Blade reports
A huge chunk still missing from the budget is how the chamber plans to deal with K-12 schools, preventing lawmakers from putting a total price tag on the two-year spending plan for the moment. Talks continue, but Mr. Faber predicted that the final product is likely to be closer to what Mr. Kasich initially proposed than what the House put forth.

Mr. Kasich’s school funding plans, particularly his promise that more money would flow to poorer schools, were initially greeted with optimism by school superintendents across the state. But that mood quickly soured when the administration released numbers showing that some 60 percent of school districts would see no funding increases while some wealthier, fast-growing, suburban districts were in line for large increases.

The House, in turned, capped the growth in subsidies to those suburban schools, resulting in more districts being in line for increases, including Toledo Public Schools. Mr. Faber would not speculate what the Senate’s total K-12 pot of funding would be larger or smaller than in the House version.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a reaction
Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, D-North Avondale, said the small business tax cut wouldn’t provide business owners with enough money to create new jobs. He also lamented the budget’s lack of additional funding for local governments and schools.

“Our schools and local communities have suffered drastic cuts since Governor Kasich took office and today’s amendments by Senate Republicans to (the budget bill) did nothing to change that,” he said in a statement. “That’s not good news for local taxpayers who’ve been forced to pick up the slack from state funding cuts by voting for more local levies.”

Senate Republicans said they won’t have education funding numbers until next week, when they plan to reveal their final K-12 funding plan.
The Governor promised that poor districts would receive more, which should not have been a difficult task after he cut education funding by $1.8 billion in his last budget. But even that promise turned out to be empty as almost 400 school districts were set to receive flat funding. The House promised to fix the Governor's mess, and attempted to do so by returning to the Taft era building blocks formula - only they cut school funding by a further $200 million in the process. Now the Ohio Senate wants to return to the Governor's rejected formula. As we predicted, we have a school funding disaster on our hands, unless the Senate is also going to attach significant amounts of additional money to the plan to make it workable.

School administrators were not kind about the Governor's funding formula the first go-around, and here's the graph to demonstrate why

Will Ohio's media be bamboozled a third time by Republican legislators?

"Education Reform" process must change

William Phillis, Via the mailbag
The recently adopted "education reform" process seems to follow these steps:

· State officials assume that any deficiencies in student test scores, behavior, work force readiness, college readiness, etc. are due to the lack of competence and dedication of boards of education, administrators, educators and staff in the public common school. (Of course, some of them believe poverty and home environment do not influence test scores, behaviors, etc.)

· State officials are provided model reform legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and seek advice from corporate leaders and others not working in the public common school system. A token representation of public education personnel may also be consulted.

· "Reforms" such as the parent trigger, vouchers, charter schools, mayoral control of schools, appointed commissions to assume part of the functions of boards of education, tuition tax credits, third grade guarantee, high stakes testing, replacement of teachers and administrators in "failing schools", A-F report cards, etc. are enacted with the expectation that these quick fixes will work wonders.

· In all cases the local education community typically attempts to comply with the state's reforms.

· When local educators and administrators don't fully embrace these untested "reforms", they are considered to be stuck in their old ways, resistant to change and not fit for the position they hold.

· Some state officials attempt to intimidate those who don't "buy-in" to the ever changing "reform" ideas. Then local education personnel are told that they would buy-in if they really would take the time to understand the "reform." · When the "reform" measures don't produce extraordinary results, the local education personnel are to blame and thus the system should be farmed out to the private sector.
We'd just add that by the time corporate reform ideas are proven to be failures (such as NCLB) the politiciand responsible for them are long gone and educators are left to pick up the pieces.

The end of Michelle Rhee?

As for Rhee: I suspect she’s not planning on going anywhere, but all this error, corruption, and cover-up is taking a toll on her reputation. To the extent that her movement is about education reform rather than about Michelle Rhee, at some point they’ll have to find a more credible leader, no?

Click the link for more.

On Teacher Evaluation: Slow Down And Get It Right

One of the primary policy levers now being employed in states and districts nationwide is teacher evaluation reform. Well-designed evaluations, which should include measures that capture both teacher practice and student learning, have great potential to inform and improve the performance of teachers and, thus, students. Furthermore, most everyone agrees that the previous systems were largely pro forma, failed to provide useful feedback, and needed replacement.

The attitude among many policymakers and advocates is that we must implement these systems and begin using them rapidly for decisions about teachers, while design flaws can be fixed later. Such urgency is undoubtedly influenced by the history of slow, incremental progress in education policy. However, we believe this attitude to be imprudent.

The risks to excessive haste are likely higher than whatever opportunity costs would be incurred by proceeding more cautiously. Moving too quickly gives policymakers and educators less time to devise and test the new systems, and to become familiar with how they work and the results they provide.

Moreover, careless rushing may result in avoidable erroneous high stakes decisions about individual teachers. Such decisions are harmful to the profession, they threaten the credibility of the evaluations, and they may well promote widespread backlash (such as the recent Florida lawsuits and the growing “opt-out” movement). Making things worse, the opposition will likely “spill over” into other promising policies, such as the already-fragile effort to enact the Common Core standards and aligned assessments.

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SB21 Decoded

A number of readers have asked us to decode the Ohio House's version of SB21, which is likely to be passed into law.

In the area of teacher qualifications, after July 1, 2013, third grade students who have been retained or are on a reading improvement plan shall be assigned to a teacher who has at least one year of teaching experience and satisfies one of the following criteria:

a) K-12 reading endorsement on their teaching license
b) Master’s degree in reading or literacy
c) Rated “most effective” for reading instruction for the most recent two years based on student growth measures
d) Rated “above expected value added” in reading instruction as determined by criteria established by ODE for the most recent consecutive school years
e) Passed a rigorous test of principles of scientifically research-based reading instruction approved by the State Board of Education
f) Holds a teaching license for P-3 or 4-9 issued on or after July 1, 2017

The House version limited or did away with qualifications in the Senate version that allowed for evidence of completion of a program of scientifically research-based reading instruction programs approved by the department (limited to until July 1, 2016) or the teacher is an effective reading instructor as determined by criteria established by the department (eliminated).

The House version of the bill also expands who may offer services in the following ways:
  • A teacher with less than one year of experience provided they meet one of the qualifications and is assigned a teacher mentor who meets one of the qualifications
  • Through July 1, 2016, a teacher who has successfully completed training on reading instruction approved by the department
  • A teacher other than the classroom teacher to whom the student is assigned provided the teacher meets the qualifications, the teacher and the principal agree and the assignment is documented in the student’s reading improvement plan
  • A speech language pathologist may provide reading intervention and remediation services

Additionally, the House version of the bill allows school districts who cannot furnish the number of teachers to satisfy the qualifications to submit a staffing plan to the Ohio Department of Education. ODE may grant extensions of district staffing plans through the 2015-2016 school year.

Other provisions of the House passed version of SB 21 include:
  • Specifies that retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is triggered by failure to attain at least the “equivalent level of achievement” as determined by ODE
  • Exempts English language learners enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years
  • Exempts students with significant cognitive disabilities from diagnostic tests on a case-by-case basis as determined by ODE
  • Requires the State Board of Education to adopt competencies for reading credentials and training by January 31, 2014. Requires all new applicants seeking an educator license for grades P-3 or 4-9 to pass an examination aligned with these competencies. Requires reading endorsement programs to align to these new competencies not later than July 1, 2016
  • Requires school districts and community schools that receive a D or F on the K-3 literacy progress measure on the new school district report cards and less than 60% of students score at least proficient on the third grade English language arts assessment submit a reading achievement improvement plan.

Thanks to OEA's Government Services for their expertise in helping to decipher SB21.
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