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2014 Election Brings Step Forward for Public Education

Hopefully not lost in the Governor's reelection is just how unconvinced voters remain about some of his policies, especially when it comes to public education. In 2010 the Governor received 1,889,186 votes, a total he barely topped this election with 1,922,241. Rather than an election win on the basis of convincing voters of his policies, his victory last night was more a product of voter apathy towards the alternative.

Further evidence of voters distrust of the governor's education policies can be seen in the results for the State Board of Education. Seven of the boards seats were on the ballot, and pro-public education candidates won 5 of them.

This graphic was heavily trafficked on social media during the campaign

Winning 5 of 7 races in an election where the top of the ticket was barely contested should be as loud of a message that can be sent. In one of the lost races, District 2, Kim Redfern appears to have been the victim of voter backlash against her Husband, Chris Redfern the Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. District 7 continues to puzzle. Voters returned home schooler Sarah Fowler to the board, a truly bizarre choice.

With 5 new pro-public education board members and a new Board President to replace the disgraceful Debe Terhar there's more hope that educators will have a voice in education policy over the next few years.

Report urges revamping student testing

A new report suggests overhauling how school and student success is measured in the United States.

The report, by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky, recommends alternatives to annual standardized tests. It says there should be far more emphasis on ongoing assessments of students as part of regular classroom instruction.

Schools should focus more on “formative assessments,” the curriculum-based problems and quizzes that teachers give to students throughout the school year for feedback on how students are doing, in addition to locally developed alternatives to assessments, the report argues. The latter could include science experiments, literary essays, classroom projects and, by the senior year of high school, internship experiences and portfolios that students can present to employers and colleges.

You can read the report below

Accountability College and Career Readiness Developing New Paradigm

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.”

Value Add Reports Screwed Up In Ohio

A number of readers sent us this message they have been receiving from SAS, the company that develops and deploys the secret, proprietary VAM system in Ohio
Subject: PLEASE READ - Important Message Concerning Teacher Value-Added Reports

As a precaution, the 2013-2014 Teacher Value-Added Reports that were released Tuesday are being taken down from the EVAAS website. Some of the teacher-student linkage data was not included in the analysis when the reports were produced. These reports will be corrected, verified and re-posted as soon as possible. The school and district reports will remain on the site and are accurate.
This is just one more reasons why this formula needs to be open and available for scrutiny. Educators whose careers depend upon these scores have no way of knowing if the calculations are accurate and correct. It is also another good reason why delaying the implementation of high stakes testing should be adopted, and thankfully a bill to do just that has been introduced.

Rep Teresa Fedor has introduced HB 642
To amend section 3302.036 of the Revised Code and Section 13 of Am. Sub. H.B. 487 of the 130th General Assembly to provide a three-year performance rating safe harbor for school districts and schools, to provide a three-year student academic growth rating safe harbor for teacher evaluations and when making decisions regarding teachers' employment and compensation, and to declare an emergency.
It has already attracted a number of co-sponsors, including Representatives Clyde, Bishoff, Stinziano, Hagan, R., Lundy, Hood, Gerberry, Barborak, Mallory, Slesnick, Phillips, Ramos, Foley, Cera, Antonio, Patterson, Driehaus, Sheehy, Rogers. It has also been openly welcomed by the Ohio Education Association, which represents 121,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in Ohio's public schools, colleges and universities.
“As Senator Peggy Lehner, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, has noted – ‘we are over-testing our kids’,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “We urge state lawmakers to hit the pause button and determine which tests are actually needed and which are also appropriate for the grade level at which they’re being administered.”

OEA believes that with the use of the new Common Core standards in Ohio schools and the prospect of even more tests being conducted, it is important to take more time to make sure the implementation of these standards goes well.

“We’ve seen what has happened in other states where the hasty implementation of Common Core and the related testing has led to a backlash among parents, students and educators,” continued OEA President Higgins. “We support Ohio’s New Learning Standards, but we want to make sure Ohio gets it right. That’s why we think taking the time to ‘test the tests’ would be a prudent course to follow.”

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.
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