The Ohio Education Association (OEA) along with the Youngstown City School District Board of Education, the Youngstown Education Association - an affiliate of the OEA, Ohio Council 8 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Jane Haggerty, a taxpayer and Youngstown voter, filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to stop the scheduled state takeover of Youngstown City Schools.
The suit against the State of Ohio, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, and the Ohio Department of Education, claims the law that sets up a state takeover was rushed through the Ohio legislature without receiving three readings in each chamber, as required by the Ohio Constitution and in a manner that prevented thorough debate and consideration of the law, including input from educators and local citizens. The suit also claims the law violates the right of local citizens to have elected representatives oversee their school districts.
“Educators want to be able to advocate for their students,” said OEA president Becky Higgins. “The plan to turn over decision-making authority in the Youngstown schools to single person – a CEO – would effectively silence the voices of educators. That’s unacceptable. Educators are committed to improving the Youngstown schools and they need to be heard.”
The plaintiffs asked the judge for a preliminary injunction to block the establishment of a new “Academic Distress Commission” that would name a CEO to run the schools until report card ratings improve. The appointed CEO would have the authority to replace administrators, set class sizes, alter existing contracts and set compensation.
The constitution is pretty clear
Article VI §3 states that:
...each school district embraced wholly or in part within any city shall have the power by referendum vote to determine for itself the number of members and the organization of the district board of education, and provision shall be made by law for the exercise of the power by such school districts. The constitution recognizes that the board of education is in charge of its district.
That does seem to preclude having a non elected CEO run things. The plans troubles don't end there. There are also reports that the crafting of the plan may have broken Ohio's sunshine laws
Two state lawmakers charge that the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet was a public body and that its behind-closed-doors meetings violated the Sunshine Law.
The cabinet devised the Youngstown Plan, the legislation that allows a chief executive officer to be appointed to manage and operate the city school district.
“These meetings were meetings about public education policy,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th. “Taxpayer dollars were affected with it, and it was a secret.”
The meetings purposely excluded parents and teachers, she said.
Lepore-Hagan and Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo, D-45th, want Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, to resign.
ODE and the State are going to have an uphill fight over this one.
Here's what ODE bullet points as the main changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System
State law (Ohio House Bill 64) brought changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System for the 2015-2016 school year and beyond. The bill extends "safe harbor" provisions for educators who use value-added ratings from state tests for the student growth measure portion of their evaluations. The legislation also modifies the alternative framework, one of two models districts must choose from when evaluating teachers and principals.
Safe harbor provides flexibility with value-added data – Because of the transition to new state tests, which offer value-added data as one means of calculating student academic growth, the General Assembly also extended and modified safe harbor provisions. That means that school districts will not use value-added ratings from state tests for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years as part of educator evaluations or when making decisions regarding dismissal, retention, tenure or compensation – unless they establish a memorandum of understanding to do so. Teachers will continue to receive value-added reports that will provide them with diagnostic information about their students’ progress.
Alternative framework changes – Districts still must choose either the original model (which weights performance and student growth equally at 50 percent each) or an alternative model to follow as they conduct teacher evaluations. The alternative model now weights teacher performance at 50 percent, student growth at 35 percent and an additional component as 15 percent of the total. If selecting this framework, districts may use one or any combination of five options for the additional component:
Peer review evaluations;
Student portfolios; or a
On the face of it, an improvement. Though the continued insistence on relying on unreliable VAM data is still, after all these years, after all the studies showing it doesn't work, is frustrating.
Now go read the FAQ ODE has produced, and one quickly realizes that once you start asking questions based on the real world, HB64 has created a tangled mess of more work - work that will once again be abandoned in 2 years time when the safe harbor expires.
The legislature should simply scrap all this state mandated evaluation nonsense, and allow districts to develop their own evaluation systems, leaving ODE to provide suggested frameworks, and assessments.
It is simply not possible to get to a system that fairly evaluates all teachers in an apples-to-apples way, and that amount of effort being expending in attempting to do so is distracting from the primary mission of educating students.
"Chartergate" - that's the name being given to the fallout from data being omitted from politically connected online charter schools, skewing sponsor ratings to be more positive. These actions were perpetrated by ODE's school choice director, David Hansen. Hansen was quickly forced to resign. ODE and the Governor were hoping that would end the controversy, but yesterdays letter by 7 school board members (the majority of elected members) has reignited the discussion about opening up an independent investigation. The President of the Board, a Kasich appointee is looking to avoid such an investigation, with incomprehensible reasoning.
State board of education president Tom Gunlock said in an interview that he agrees the law was violated and the situation needs addressed. But he said the letter from his colleagues goes a step beyond what he thinks is necessary.
"It's appropriate to make sure we abide by the law," Mr. Gunlock said of Mr. Ross's plan. "I'm happy where we are today. Am I happy it occurred in the first place? Absolutely not. But I'm willing to understand that nobody's perfect in this world and things happen and what you do afterward is very important."
Mr. Gunlock said that unless contrary evidence surfaces, he's inclined to believe Mr. Hansen acted alone and that Superintendent Ross played no role in the situation. The superintendent has told board members that a review of Mr. Hansen's emails showed he acted alone.
"What happened was wrong, it was a mistake," Mr. Gunlock said. "It was by one person overstepping their authority. To date, nobody's found anything that would lead one to believe something criminal was going on."
He added, "There's nothing you can do when people do stuff when they're not supposed to. Things can happen in any organization where people go outside the chain of command and do stuff."
This response is embarrassing. "Things happen" is not an appropriate response to a scandal affecting a billion dollar business.
How are we to know that Mr. Hansen acted alone without a serious independent investigation? Because we have the word of a man who was either complicit in the scandal or incompetent not to review the sponsor ratings and their design before making them public? Either way we need to do more than a quick search of some emails.Questions that need immediate answers, under oath include:
Did Mr. Hansen have any conversations with Mr Ross or members of the administration about the design of the sponsor ratings?
Did Mr. Hansen, or anyone else from ODE meet with anyone from the Charter school industry to discuss creating sponsor ratings? If so, who, and what was the nature of those conversations?
Did Mr. Ross review the sponsor ratings system before they were made public? If not, why not? If so, how did this illegal rating system move forward?
Did Mr. Hansen develop and publish these ratings on his own, or were other staff members involved? What was their direction, and from whom?
The list of open questions requiring answer is long. Every one knows this wasn't some innocent mistake. Charter school lobbyists have been crawling all over ODE and the statehouse since the first mention of reform was uttered. Mr. Hansen is the husband of Gov. Kaisch's chief of staff and now Presidential campaign manager. You don't sacrifice someone as politically connected as that unless there is far more to be revealed. Yet this is the Governor's response to this growing scandal
Gov. John Kasich sees no need for a special investigation of how data from bad charter schools were scrubbed by the husband of his campaign manager.
“I mean, the guy is gone. He’s gone,” Kasich said about David Hansen, who resigned as the state education department’s school-choice director last month, shortly after it was revealed that he had arbitrarily removed poorly performing charter schools from state evaluations. Hansen is the husband of the governor’s former chief of staff, Beth Hansen, who is the manager of Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“We don’t tolerate any sort of not open and direct communication about charter schools, and everybody gets it. So that’s kind of the end of it,” Kasich said on Tuesday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
“It’s just a political thing,” Kasich said. “You just shake your head that people aren’t grown up enough to know that education’s not about adults, it’s about children. And that sideshows have no place in all this.”
The failure and fraud allowed to persist in the Ohio charter school sector is exactly about adults enriching themselves at the expense of over 100,000 students. That is exactly why an independent examination of ODE and its leadership is so crucial.
The following analysis is based on the final version of House Bill 64 (state budget) as signed by the Governor.
K-12 Education School Funding
Increases state aid to school districts by approximately $350.9 million in FY 2016 and $154.4 million in FY 2017 prior to deductions for charter schools and vouchers.
Maintains the existing school funding formula but adds new support for transportation, as well as incentive funding tied to the third grade reading guarantee and graduation rates.
All school districts are guaranteed that they will not receive less funding than they received in FY 15 in state foundation aid over the biennium.
Increases the foundation formula from $5,800 per pupil in FY 2015 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017.
Limits the gain cap or the funding increase that a school district can receive under the formula to 7.5 percent in each year of the biennium. Exempts capacity aid (the capacity measure determines a districts ability to raise local revenues), transportation supplement, graduation rate appropriation, and third grade reading guarantee appropriations from the cap in both FY 2016 and FY 2017.
Reduces payments to school districts from the elimination of the Tangible Personal Property Tax and Kilowatt Hour Tax by between 1% and 2%, depending on the property wealth of the school district. The Governor vetoed the Tangible Personal Property (TPP) supplemental foundation aid in FY 2017 that was intended to guarantee that districts do not receive less funding (state foundation aid and TPP reimbursements) than FY 2015 levels. This veto, coupled with the elimination of the minimum per-pupil provision, reduces approximately $95.5 million in FY 2017 for nearly 120 districts that are reliant on the TPP replacement payments (Revised estimates from the Legislative Services Commission 7/2/2015). The Governor retained the TPP supplemental foundation aid for districts in FY 2016.
Provides approximately $278 million in FY 2016 and $283 million in FY 2017 for Joint Vocational School Districts (JVSD).
Requires a school district or charter school to pay a JVSD for student special education and related services if the cost of providing those services is greater than the amount the JVSD receives under the funding formula.
Creates a School Transportation Joint Task Force to study the “appropriate formula” for paying for student transportation and the responsibility of school districts, nonpublic schools and community schools. Requires the task force to submit a report by February 1, 2016.
Repeals the requirement that Legislative Services Commission maintain an online database of current and historical revenues and expenditures for all school districts.
Requires the state superintendent to verify that the state achievement tests in 2015-2016 will be administered once during a testing window in the second half of the school year and that the amount of time spent taking these tests is reduced in order to provide more time for instruction.
Requires any entity which grades state assessments to send a school a list of individual scores for all students within 45 days or by June 30 - whichever is earlier (3rd grade ELA tests results due by June 15).
Extends for one year (through 2015-2016) a provision that prohibits any school from being required to administer state assessments online. Requires ODE to furnish assessments free of charge.
Prohibits general revenue funds from being used to purchase assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Exempts students enrolled in a chartered nonpublic school which is accredited through the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS) from the high school graduation assessments and the requirement to take the high school end-of-course exams, unless the student is attending the school under a voucher program. Specifies that non- ISACS chartered nonpublic schools may forgo the end-of-course exams if the school administers an alternative assessment to all of its students.
Prohibits districts from using value-added ratings from 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 for evaluations or employment decisions unless the district and teachers collectively agree to use them. Requires that evaluations be based solely on performance if no other measure of student academic growth is available.
Changes the first year that state report card ratings must have an overall letter grade to 2017-2018.
Prohibits report card ratings from being used to determine EdChoice voucher eligibility and academic distress commissions through 2016-2017.
Extends “student safe harbor” by two years. Through 2016-2017, schools are prohibited from utilizing student scores on state assessments or end-of-course exams as a factor in any decision on student retention, promotion or granting course credit. (Note: this does not apply to the retention provision of the third grade reading guarantee).
Revises the alternative framework of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) as follows:
o Decreases the student academic growth measure to 35% (from 42.5%)
o Increases the teacher performance measure to 50% (from 42.5%)
o Specifies the remaining 15% shall be one or a combination of student surveys, teacher self-evaluations, peer reviews, student portfolios or any other component deemed appropriate by the district.
Requires the Educator Standards Board to develop standards for school counselors that
align with the American School Counselor Association’s professional standards, and are in
keeping with the core elements of an effective school program.
Requires the State Board of Education to develop a standards-based framework for the
evaluation of school counselors and requires each school district by September 30, 2016, to adopt an evaluation policy that conforms to the state framework.
Increases the maximum amount of an EdChoice voucher for a high school student from $5,000 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017.
Increases the maximum amount of the Autism and Jon Peterson Special Needs voucher programs from $20,000 to $27,000.
Requires the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) by July 1, 2016, to submit to the House and Senate Education Committees, a plan that would expand ODE’s authority to directly authorize charter schools and makes recommendations for a ratings rubric for the evaluation of charter school sponsors.
Allows charter schools with the highest rated sponsors to receive local tax dollars if approved by local school boards and voters.
Permits a charter school to operate a preschool program if its sponsor is rated "exemplary,” and if the charter receives a grade of “C” or better on either the value-added or performance index score for grades four through twelve or if a school serving grades K-3 receive a “C” or better for improving literacy. A charter school may not receive operating funds for students enrolled in a preschool program, but is permitted to receive early childhood expansion funds.
Requires a feasibility analysis regarding the establishment of 16 charter schools for gifted children located in the different ESC regions of the state.
Changes the definition of “internet- or computer-based charter school” to include a charter school that offers career-technical education even if that instruction provides some classroom-based instruction.
Requires that high-performing charter schools be given the right of first refusal in the sale or lease of school district real property (this establishes a more specific rank order to current law that generally provides charter schools a right of first refusal).
Increases the amount of money that may be used to pay for school facilities from $100 to $200 per student.
Authorizes e-schools to receive $25 per pupil for facilities.
Other K-12 Provisions
Establishes the Joint Education Oversight Commission, consisting of five members from the Senate and five members from the House, to review and evaluate education policies and programs.
Requires the State Board of Education, by July 1, 2016, to adopt rules exempting consistently high-performing teachers from the requirement to complete any additional coursework for the renewal of an educator license.
Extends the deadline for the 2015-2016 state report cards from September 15, 2015, to January 15, 2016. Extends until January 31, 2016, the deadline for ODE’s reports regarding students with disabilities for 2014-2015.
Requires the State Board of Education by December 31, 2015, to update its plan for students to earn high school credits based on demonstrated competency and how 7th and 8th grade student can meet curriculum requirements. The provision requires school districts to comply with the plan in 2016-2017.
Makes eligible for high school graduation an individual who entered 9th grade for the first time prior to July 1, 2014, if the person completes one of the three pathways: (1) score at "remediation-free" levels in English, math, and reading on nationally standardized assessments, (2) attain a cumulative passing score on the end-of-course examinations, or (3) attain a passing score on a nationally recognized job skills assessment and obtain either an industry-recognized credential or a state agency or board-issued license in a specific vocation.
Makes eligible for high school graduation an individual who entered the 9th grade for the first time prior to July 1, 2014, and has not passed all of the Ohio Graduation Tests, if the
person meets a combined graduation requirement established by rules adopted by the State Board of Education. Requires the State Board to adopt such rules by December 31, 2015.
Permits schools to enter into contracts with hospitals, health care providers or a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC) in order to provide health care services to students.
Requires the Board of Building Standards to adopt rules for a staff member of a K-12 school or institution of higher education to use temporary barricades for security. Requires each school to train staff members on the use of barricades.
Appropriates $40 million over the biennium to expand early childhood education opportunities.
Appropriates $5 million in FY 2016 to support graduate coursework for high school teachers in order to receive credentialing to teach college credit plus courses. The provision gives priority to educationally disadvantaged high schools. Also appropriates $5 million in FY 2016 for competitive grants for universities to aid in the credentialing of teachers.
Appropriates approximately $42 million over the biennium for the Straight A Program.
Prohibits a school district or school from altering, truncating, or redacting any part of a
student’s record so that any information on the record is rendered unreadable in the
transfer of that record.
Allows students who enter the 9th grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2015, who are
pursuing a career-technical instructional track, to take a career-based pathway
mathematics course as an alternative to Algebra II.
Modifies mentoring under the Teacher Residency Program to specify that mentoring be
provided during the first two years of the program and that the mentor be a licensed
teacher (lead professional license not required).
Specifies that a career-technical education instructor teaching under an alternative
resident educator license may not be required to complete the conditions of the first two
years of the Ohio Teacher Residency Program.
Changes the deadline for the annual reading assessments under the Third Grade Reading
Guarantee for Kindergarten students to November 1.
Grants parents of home-schooled students the ability to award a diploma to their children
and requires the local superintendent to sign that diploma.
Specifies that up to $200,000 in each fiscal year, after providing matching funds for the
school lunch program, be used by ODE to contract with the Children's Hunger Alliance to
expand access to federal summer nutrition and school breakfast programs.
Appropriates approximately $315,000 in FY 2016 and $285,000 in FY 2017 to support the
Chardon Pilot Program to assist in trauma-based recovery for students and teachers in Ohio.
Allows school districts to contract with public and private entities to provide academic remediation and intervention services to all students outside of regular school hours (current law allows for grades 1-6).
Prohibits the State Board of Education from requiring the payment of any fee for a license, certificate, or permit issued for teaching in a Junior ROTC program.
Changes the term of office of a joint vocational school district board member to one year if that member is appointed on a rotating basis by members of the board when there is an even number of member school districts under a plan on file with ODE.
Permits the State Board of Education to establish a Teacher of the Year program and permits voluntary contributions to the program.
Permits a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) school to admit out- of-state students and requires the school to charge tuition to those students.
Appropriates $2 million in each FY for Teach for America.
Abolishes the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Council.
Provides 6.3 percent across-the-board reduction in income tax rates beginning in 2015.
Provides a 75 percent tax deduction for the first $250,000 in small business income for
2015, a 100 percent deduction in 2016 and 2017. Imposes a 3 percent flat tax rate on
business income above $250,000.
Increases the cigarette excise tax from $1.25 to $1.60 a pack beginning July 1, 2015.
Creates the 2020 Tax Policy Study commission consisting of six members (three from the
House and three from the Senate) to review Ohio’s tax structures and policies. Requires the commission to make recommendations on how to transition Ohio’s personal income tax to a 3.5% or 3.75% flat tax by 2018, how to reform Ohio’s severance tax by October 1, 2015, and the historic building rehabilitation tax credit by October 31, 2016.
Applies a means test to retirement income tax credits, beginning in 2015, only taxpayers with Ohio taxable income of less than $100,000 would be eligible for the credits. The lump- sum retirement credit and the lump-sum distribution credit may be claimed in lieu of, and not in addition to, the retirement income credit and the senior citizen credit respectively.
Increases the maximum allowable rainy-day fund from 5 percent of general revenue funds
￼to 8.5 percent.
Eliminates the ability of local communities to conduct special elections in February and requires the payment – in advance – of 65% of the estimated cost of an election where a political subdivision places an item on the ballot in a special election.
Seven members of the State Board of Education have written a letter to State Superintendent Dick Ross demanding an independent investigation in to the practices of ODE as they relate to the illegal rating of charter school sponsors and the potential unconstitutionality of the Youngstown plan developed in secret without the boards knowledge.
Here's their letter in full
Superintendent Richard Ross
Ohio Department of Education
20 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
August 3rd, 2015
Dear Dr. Ross,
We are taking a beating in the media, and we deserve it.
Our collective failure to properly oversee the administration and employees of ODE allowed the improper ratings of charter school sponsors. Unless we do a full and thorough investigation of ODE, matters could get much worse. You may believe that the evaluation incident was an isolated one, but we would be negligent in the performance of our duties if we accepted that as truth without looking further into ODE practices.
Unfortunately, the proposal to bring in three outsiders to determine how the sponsor evaluation should be completed falls far short of what is required for the public to regain confidence in ODE. Like it or not, you are a prime suspect in what has occurred. Mr. Hansen may have taken the fall, but you were his boss. Whether by mismanagement, or deliberate instruction to Mr. Hansen, you are culpable as well. We need more than an evaluation of how we move forward. We need an investigation into ODE practices that allowed this to happen. We cannot correct the mistakes of the past if we refuse to examine those mistakes, determine what they are, determine how they occurred, evaluate how to prevent them from occurring in the future, and taking the corrective action to assure this does not happen again.
We need to look at more than the evaluation issue. We need to look at how and why we have failed to investigate complaints brought to our attention. Our practice of having sponsors investigate their schools is a huge conflict of interest that results in an entirely unreliable and incredible investigative outcome.
If we are serious about our credibility, the board, not you, must engage an independent firm to investigate you and the Department of Education to determine compliance with the laws and administrative rules of the State of Ohio, the laws and administrative rules of the United States, and the policies and procedures of the Ohio Department of Education all as applied to the oversight, operation and licensure of community schools in the State of Ohio. The firm or individuals selected must be experienced in conducting similar investigations, have no vested interest in the outcome, and reflect the bipartisan nature of our board. The investigation should
have a deadline and all appropriate information gathered should be available to the public as soon as possible (so long as it does not interfere with the gathering of information as part of the investigation).
Such investigation must include a determination of the role you and ODE played in formation of “The Youngstown Plan.” It is important to determine how that plan has bypassed Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Ohio which states, “Provision shall be made by law for the organization, administration and control of the public school system of the state supported by public funds: provided, that each school district embraced wholly or in part within any city shall have the power by referendum vote to determine for itself the number of members and the organization of the district board of education, and provision shall be made by law for the exercise of this power by such school districts.” The faulty sponsor evaluations ignored the law. Are we now participants in ignoring Ohio’s Constitution?
Such investigation must include an audit of all contracts between the Ohio Department of Education and sponsors of community schools and all contracts between community schools and their sponsors to determine compliance. As the State Auditor has recently reported, he investigates financial issues. It falls on us to investigate legal matters to assure there is no area of law being ignored by community schools or their sponsors. Community school contracts are subject to many rules and laws. Given that ODE has overlooked the law on one known occasion creates the need to assure there are no other violations of the law being overlooked. If there are any violations, we must then determine if ODE had any part in those violations.
Such investigation must determine the accuracy of investigations conducted by sponsors of their sponsored schools at the request of the Department of Education and must further determine if complaints made to you and/or ODE have been set aside, ignored or otherwise not investigated. We look forward to working with you to implement the recommendations listed above as we work to restore the public’s confidence in the Ohio Department of Education.
Very truly yours,
Member, District 4
Member, District 6
Member, District 9
Member, District 1
Mary Rose Oakar
Member, District 11
Member, District 5
Member, District 3
Academic scholars are often dismayed when policymakers pass laws that disregard or misinterpret their research findings. The use of value-added methods (VAMS) in education policy is a case in point.
About a decade ago, researchers reported that teachers are the most important school-level factor in students’ learning, and that that their effectiveness varies widely within schools (McCaffrey, Koretz, Lockwood, & Hamilton 2004; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain 2005; Rockoff 2004). Many policymakers interpreted these findings to mean that teacher quality rests with the individual rather than the school and that, because some teachers are more effective than others, schools should concentrate on increasing their number of effective teachers.
Based on these assumptions, proponents of VAMS began to argue that schools could be improved substantially if they would only dismiss teachers with low VAMS ratings and replace them with teachers who have average or higher ratings (Hanushek 2009). Although panels of scholars warned against using VAMS to make high-stakes decisions because of their statistical limitations (American Statistical Association, 2014; National Research Council & National Academy of Education, 2010), policymakers in many states and districts moved quickly to do just that, requiring that VAMS scores be used as a substantial component in teacher evaluation.
While researchers continue to analyze and improve VAMS models, it is important to step back and consider a prior set of questions:
Does the wide variation in teachers’ effectiveness within schools simply mean that some teachers are inherently better than others, or is there a more complex and promising explanation of this finding?
Is the strategy of augmenting human capital one teacher at a time likely to pay off for students? Or will relying on VAMS for teacher evaluations have unintended consequences that interfere with a school’s collective efforts to improve?
In this column, I bring an organizational perspective to the prospect of using VAMS to improve teacher quality. I suggest why, in addition to VAMS’ methodological limitations, reformers should be very cautious about relying on VAMS to make decisions that have important consequences for both teachers and their students.
Why Is There Variation In Teacher Effectiveness Within Schools?
In his classic analysis, “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital,” James Coleman (1988) argues that individuals’ human capital is transformed for the benefit of the organization by social capital, which “inheres in the structure of relations between actors and among actors” (p. S98). In education, this suggests that whatever level of human capital schools acquire through hiring can subsequently be developed through activities such as grade-level or subject-based teams of teachers, faculty committees, professional development, coaching, evaluation, and informal interactions. As teachers join together to solve problems and learn from one another, the school’s instructional capacity becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Unfortunately, U.S. schools were never designed to benefit from social capital. In fact, over 40 years ago, historian David Tyack (1974) and sociologist Dan Lortie (1975) depicted the school as an organizational “egg crate,” where teachers work in the isolation of their classroom. In egg-crate schools, teachers focus on their own students largely to the exclusion of others, and they interact minimally and intermittently with their colleagues. As a result, their expertise remains locked within their classroom (Darling-Hammond 2001; Hargreaves & Fullan 2012; Johnson 1990; Kardos & Johnson 2007; Little 1990). This egg-crate model was efficient for managing the “factory school,” but did not serve students well; nor does it support the instructional needs of today's teachers.
Therefore, when teachers in the same school continue to work in isolation, they cannot benefit from the social capital that their school might provide. As a result, wide differences in teachers’ effectiveness persist over time.
The Evidence On School-Based Improvement Efforts
Studies have persuasively documented the benefits of systematic efforts to improve student learning through school-based improvement initiatives (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Easton, & Luppescu 2010; McLaughlin & Talbert 2001; Rosenholtz 1989). Successful efforts increase norms of shared responsibility among teachers and create structures and opportunities for learning that promote interdependence—rather than independence—among them. That is social capital at work.
Many who dismiss the potential of social capital to improve schools doubt that teachers can improve significantly over time. However, a recent study by Kraft and Papay (2014)showed that teachers working in more favorable professional environments—as rated by a school’s staff—improved throughout the ten years they analyzed, while those who worked in environments judged to be less supportive stagnated. This and other studies challenge the conventional view that teachers reach a “plateau” in their development relatively early in their career (Rivkin et al. 2005). Creating a school context that supports teachers’ work can have important, lasting benefits for students and faculty throughout the school, whereas simply swapping out low-scoring for a high-scoring individuals without changing the context in which they work probably will not (Ladd & Sorenson 2014; Leana 2011; Lohr 2012).
Threats To School-Based Improvement Efforts
Not only are personnel polices based on VAMS scores likely to have, at best, modest effects on a school’s success, they may inadvertently undermine improvement efforts that are already underway. How so? Here, I suggest several possible unintended consequences of increasing reliance on VAMS (for a more detailed discussion see here).