Survey shows disturbing patterns

The latest Metlife survey, conducted annually since 1984, shows educators under incredible stress as they cope with large budget cuts coupled with increased demands.

The whole survey is worth a read, but we've pulled out some of the most important findings.

Principals and Teachers Give Positive Ratings to the Job Teachers Are Doing

Nearly all principals (98%) give positive ratings to the classroom teachers in their school. This level is similar to the ratings provided by principals in 1986 (95%). The majority of principals (63%) say that their teachers are doing an excellent job and an additional 35% describe the job teachers are doing as pretty good.

In contrast to teachers’ ratings of their principals, the most experienced principals are most likely to rate their teachers highly. Principals with more than 10 years’ experience as a principal are more likely than those with six to 10 years’ experience or those with five years’ or less experience to rate the classroom teachers in their school as excellent (72% vs. 56% vs. 59%).

Of course corporate education reformers will continue to claim too many teachers are not performing in the classroom, despite all the available evidence.

As a consequence of the relentless teacher bashing, and budget cuts, politicians are causing serious moral problems with the workforce, as is evidenced in the next two findings

Teacher Job Satisfaction Continues to Decline
Teacher satisfaction has declined to its lowest point in 25 years and has dropped five percentage points in the past year alone, from 44% to 39% very satisfied. This marks a continuation of a substantial decline noted in the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher; teacher satisfaction has now dropped 23 percentage points since 2008.

Stress among teachers has increased since 1985
In 1985—the last time this question was asked and when job satisfaction was also low—more than one-third (36%) of teachers said they felt under great stress at least several days a week. Today, that number has increased; half (51%) of teachers feel under great stress at least several days a week. Elementary school teachers experience stress more frequently.

They are more likely than middle school or high school teachers to say they feel under great stress at least several days a week (59% vs. 44% vs. 42%). The increase since 1985 in the number of elementary school teachers who experience great stress at least several days a week is also noteworthy—59% today compared to 35% in 1985

Corporate reformers are also having negative impacts on Principals too
Most principals say that their responsibilities today have changed compared to five years ago and that the job has increased in complexity

Moreover, three-quarters (75%) of principals agree that the job of the principal has become too complex, a view shared by principals regardless of demographic characteristics such as school level, school location, the proportion of low-income or minority students, or the proportion of students performing at or above grade level in English language arts and math.

Half (48%) of principals feel under great stress several days a week or more. This finding is perhaps not surprising given the previously cited results that most principals feel their jobs are too complex, their responsibilities have changed during the past five years, and that they have a high degree of accountability with varying levels of control over decisions

The ever increasing Rube Goldberg machines being constructed by corporate education reformers is making the job of principal all but impossible. The survey notes
It is important to note that as educators begin to implement new, higher standards, many face other competing mandates related to teacher and student assessment as well as decreasing teacher morale,and reductions in budgets and other resources such as staff, professional learning opportunities, and time for collaboration.

When asked about limited resources and what would help them most in addressing the needs of diverse learners, majorities of teachers consistently say other teachers. In 2009, nine in 10 teachers agreed that other teachers contribute to their success in the classroom, including 51% who strongly agreed. Most teachers and principals also said that greater collaboration among teachers and school leaders would have a major impact on improving student achievement.

Given limited resources, teachers believed opportunities for collaborative teaching would have a major impact on their ability to address different learning needs of individual students.

Yet most teachers continued to report that their time to work with other teachers remained the same or had been reduced.
On top of these strains being faced by teachers, the strains being felt by principals is leading to teachers taking on additional leadership roles
As the job of the principal has become more complex with the need to balance instructional leadership, high-stakes accountability, and non-academic management, the survey has documented the emergence of teachers more prominently as leaders in their schools, districts and beyond. The voice of the teacher as an educator has also become a voice of leadership in education.
[…]
Teachers Are School Leaders; Many Have a Formal Leadership Role in Their School Half (51%) of teachers currently have a formal leadership role in their school, such as department chair, instructional resource, teacher mentor, or leadership team member. Teachers who have a formal leadership role are more experienced; they are more likely than other teachers to have at least six years of teaching experience (86% vs. 73%). These teacher leaders are also more likely to report that their school’s budget has decreased during the past 12 months (60% vs. 51%), perhaps reflecting a greater need among these schools to have teachers take on more responsibilities.
[…]
In the context of additional challenges for leading schools toward greater improvement, the continuing decline in teacher morale identifies itself as an urgent priority. During a time when expectations and standards are increasing for effective teaching and learning, teacher morale is yet another declining resource, one that is associated with schools with diminished budgets and other resources, fewer students meeting standards and fewer colleagues highly rated for how well they are doing their job. Teacher leadership emerges as a potential resource for translating big challenges into opportunities, served by hybrid roles for teachers as leaders and as a method for addressing professional growth and satisfaction.
It's time that politicians began to properly value and respect their most valuable asset the education system has - the educators who work in it.

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What Administrators Are Really Saying About Kasich’s School Plan

From our mailbag.
The Governor’s office deceptively highlighted the minority of Administrators across the state that are actually pleased with Kasich’s plan to make permanent his historic education cuts. What are school administrators among the 60% of districts receiving no additional state funding actually saying about Kasich’s plan?

  • “The statements the governor made are a damn lie.” – Arnol Elam, Superintendent of Franklin City Schools
  • “[We were] duped by Kasich. We got told all the right things, but he didn’t follow through. This is not what we were told.” – Bob Caldwell, Superintendent of Wolf Creek Local School District
  • “Everyone in the room when he [Kasich] announced his budget was misled.” – Roger Mace, Superintendent of Gallipolis City Schools
  • “This is really going to hurt us.” – Becki Peden, Huntington Local Schools Treasurer
  • “It just seems like the rich get richer, and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.” – Larry Hook, Superintendent of Carlisle Schools
  • “What the governor and his staff told us in Columbus just was not true… Five of the seven districts will not receive any more money [in fiscal year 2014].” – John Rubesich, Superintendent of the Ashtabula County Educational Services Center
  • “Instead of closing the gap between poor and wealthy districts, it appears to be exacerbated.” – Tom Perkins, Superintendent of Northern Local Schools of Perry County
  • Aurora Schools Treasurer Bill Volsin said his district will receive the exact same amount from the state as it did last year. While state government officials say Aurora will receive almost half a million more in 2014, Volsin and Superintendent Russ Bennett claim that isn’t true. – Auora Advocate, 2/13/13

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Stop Saying That

When the governor of my state announced his plan for a new school funding formula, he said, "this is not about teachers, this is about the students." I wish he, and others, would quit saying that.

We hear this refrain almost every time there is an announcement about school reform or funding. It is meant to send a message: teachers do not care about kids.

I had hoped that after Newtown, with teachers selflessly giving their lives for their students, the 'teachers don't care' mantra would stop. Wrong again.

But here is the deal: this type of rhetoric is not only unhelpful, it is just plain wrong.

First, rhetoric like this does not help. We never hear it about other public policy debates. (Imagine: "This farm bill is not about farmers, it is about cows.") I cannot for the life of me figure out why policy makers think teachers are the enemy when it comes to education reform.

It might be that what they really mean is that this is not about the teacher unions. But that approach is incorrect as well. As a veteran administrator, I can assure you that there has not been any proof that non-unionized teachers do better in helping students achieve than those who are unionized. What does matter is how well teacher are supported in doing their jobs, and it's that support that teachers unions fight for.

The real problem with the idea that education reform and budgets are 'not about teachers' is this: if you want students to succeed, any reform must include teachers.

[readon2 url="http://forumforeducation.org/blog/stop-saying"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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A minority budget

One thing is clear now the language of the Governor's budget bill (HB59) is available. No matter how you look at it, it is a minority budget.

First and most obviously the bill will be crafted by the Republican dominated legislature, with little input or amendment from the Democrats. This will be despite the fact that voters just a few short months ago voted for Democrats in far larger numbers than Republicans. The Republican gerrymandering of the state legislature will give Republican members a very false sense of voter support.

That false sense of support is already evident in recent polling of the Governor's budget.

Among the poll’s key findings are:
  • 60% of Ohioans say public schools need more state funding to improve
  • 59% say Ohio is doing too little to improve the quality of public education
  • 62% say helping localities fund schools, fire and police is more important to them than reducing the state income tax
  • 62% favor raising Ohio’s severance tax on oil and natural gas to the Texas rate —and using the money to offset state budget cuts to local governments

It's clear then, that a party that received minority voter support only has minority support for its budget plans.

Finally, the reason these facts come into stark relief is because of the underlying policies - policies that enhance the welfare and benefit of a minority of Ohioans over the those of the majority.

On school funding:
  • The budget elevates private school vouchers and failing charter schools over traditional public schools, despite 90% of Ohio's students attending traditional public schools.
  • 382 of 612 school districts see no funding increase from the previous budgets baseline, which cut $1.8 billion - causing basic state aid to fall from $5,723 to a paltry $5,000.
  • Despite the Governor's promise that "the rich will get less and the poor will get more", his funding plan, where it does provide modest increases, does the exact opposite.
  • The Governor goes further, threatening that if reelected his next budget would eliminate $880 million in funding guarantees that some of the poorest school districts currently receive.
These are budget decisions that are not being forced on the Governor or his legislative allies, but are instead choices being made. These choices are being made in order to further support the minority over the majority in the form of massive tax breaks.

His proposed income tax cuts has the following effect

Plainly then, the Governor's budget prioritizes income tax cuts for the wealthy. This income tax reduction will equate to approximately $4.3 billion less in revenue to the state, resulting in less revenue to support key programs like education. Since May 2011, budget cuts to public schools have forced local districts to propose about $1.1 billion in new levies.

the legislature still has a lot of time to listen to the majority of Ohioans who want a more balanced approach to the budget than the minority one being proposed. Such balance would include restoration of funding to schools and communities, not cuts to these vital services that the majority rely upon. These investments will make our state stronger and more prosperous, and have a far greater long term positive impact than many of the minority provisions being proposed.

You can contact the Governor and ask that he take a more balanced approach that benefits everyone, not just the few.
Contact the Governor, here
Find and contact your legislator, here

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Improving the Budget Bill Part II

Following up on part I of improving the budget, part II focuses on the unfairness of school funding vis-a-vi charter schools.

Innovation Ohio recently produced a report that should send shock waves through the "choice" community.
  • Because of the $774 million deducted from traditional public schools in FY 2012 to fund charters, children in traditional public schools received, on average, $235 (or 6.5%) less state aid than the state itself said they needed.
  • More than 90% of the money sent to rated charter schools in the 2011-2012 school year went to charters that on average score significantly lower on the Performance Index Score than the public schools students had left.
  • Over 40% of state funding for charters in 2011-2012 ($326 million) was transferred from traditional public districts that performed better on both the State Report Card and Performance Index.
This indicates that far too many parents are being provided a false choice between a traditional public school and a failing charter school. That's a choice that Ohio's scarce education tax dollars should not be subsidizing.

Building off of this study, CREDO's recently release study of charter schools found
“This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s director and the study’s lead author. “Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.”

“We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset,” Dr. Raymond said. “Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.”
Clearly, if we are to be evidence based, Ohio charter schools with a history of poor performance should cease to receive tax payer funding, and Ohio's charter school accountability laws should be stiffened to prevent failed charter schools from simply reopening under a different name, as is currently happening according to a report by Policy Matters Ohio.

Making Ohio's charter school more acocuntable, and permanently closing charter schools that underperform their traditional public school counterparts should be a priority in HB59 given that we are now spending close to $1 billion a year on charter schools.

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Improving the Budget Bill Part I

Hb 59, the Governor's budget bill can be significantly improved during the legislative process. We're going to detail some of the ways improvements can be made.

Improvements can first start by correcting a major policy flaw inserted into HB555 at the last minute. HB 555 radically changed the method of calculating evaluations for about 1/3 of Ohio's teachers. If a teacher's schedule is comprised only of courses or subjects for which the value-added progress dimension is applicable - then only their value-add score can now be used as part of the 50% of an evaluation based on student growth. Gone is the ability to use multiple measures of student growth - i.e. Student Learning Objectives or SLO's.

Therefore we suggest the legislature correct this wrong-headed policy by repealing this provision of HB555.

Furthermore, greater evaluation fairness could be achieved by lowering the number of absences a student is allowed before their test scores can be excluded from a teacher's value-add score. Currently a student needs to be absent 60 times - or 1/3 of a school year. This is an absurd amount of schooling to miss and still have that student's score count towards the evaluation of his or her teacher. This absence exclusion should be lowered to a more reasonable 15 absences.

Value-add should not be used to punish teachers on evaluations, instead it should be just one component of a multiple measure framework, and a tool to help teachers improve student learning. HB555 moved us much further away from that goal.

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