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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

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.”

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.”

Teacher retention is critical to school quality

When Reynoldsburg teachers went on strike, the issue of teacher retention came to the forefront of discussion. It was reported that almost 1 in 5 teachers had left the district. A rate of turnover far exceeding other districts in the area.

An EdWeek article discussing research on the issue of retention:

The panelists also stressed that teacher shortages are not a recruitment issue so much as a retention issue, as Ingersoll has demonstrated in his oft-cited studies on teacher-retention rates. Ingersoll's research finds that 45 percent of turnover occurs in only 25 percent of schools.
[...]
"We have the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription ... It's not that we produce too few [teachers,] it's that we lose too many," Ingersoll said.

He emphasized that any solution to school understaffing needs to focus not on making teaching more attractive to potential teachers but on retaining teachers once they enter the workforce. I said that the way to fix the problem "is to improve the quality of teachers and teaching, and the way to do that is to improve the quality of the teaching job."

That starts with administration.

"The key factor that matters," said Ladd, "is school leadership," particularly "transformational leadership" that focuses on more than simply instructional issues.

McWalters agreed, suggesting that leaders create environments where teachers can better collaborate with each and have more power in decision-making processes.
The variables mentioned for creating an environment conducive for retaining top talent seem obvious, but are also clearly lacking in Reynoldsburg. As evidence, even now that a contentious strike is over, the District led by first year Superintendent Tina Thomas Manning continues to disrespect its teaching force and act unilaterally
“Despite good-faith efforts to resolve this issue, the district decided to act unilaterally once again,” Kim Cooper, co-president of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, said in a statement on the union’s Facebook page yesterday.

“The district told us on Friday that they would not be able to make any decisions on a plan to address the missing pay until Monday,” Cooper said. “In good faith, we decided to give them that time to come up with a proposal. Instead, like so many times before, the district decided to act on its own and do whatever it wanted.”
When researchers examined the reasons for teaching staff turnover, the found the following:

The top four reasons were all primary reasons that led to the strike in Reynoldsburg, yet instead of addressing these issues the district instead sought to divide teachers using a merit pay system that has repeatedly been demonstrated to not work, and to further the insult, eliminate health benefits.

This battle with corporate reformers have been going on for a long time now, yet all the evidence continues to point away from their prescribes "solutions". There are now quick fixes to improving educational quality. It requires professional teachers, with manageable class sizes, ample preparation time and collaboration with colleagues, resourced with modern tools and supported by school management that is constantly open to meaningful dialogue. None of this is sexy, it's hard work, sometimes costly - but if you truly are interested in improving educational quality for all students this is where you must first look.

If you address the problems of teacher retention you are directly addressing school quality.

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.

The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss on This Novembers Election

Sent to us by Jeanne Melvin, OEA-Retired Teacher from Hilliard

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Theodor Seuss Geisel was one of the greatest American writers, cartoonists, and political activists who ever lived. He had this natural ability to present philosophical concepts through children’s literature that provoked thought at many different levels. Whether one works with elementary, middle, or high school students, Dr. Seuss is a favorite resource for helping both kids and grown-ups alike to understand many issues in our world.

Three years ago, educators from all over the state joined with police officers, firefighters, and other public employees to fight against Ohio Senate Bill 5, an unjust law that would have stripped away public workers’ collective bargaining rights. "Collective bargaining" is the mutually beneficial obligation of public employers and their employees to negotiate in good faith on wages, hours, terms, and other conditions of employment, and people were outraged that these rights were being crushed by their elected officials.

Rallies and petition drives against Senate Bill 5 brought unprecedented numbers of teachers out of their living rooms and into the spotlight. Educators made considerable numbers of phone calls and sent many emails to their legislators decrying this unfair attack. Teachers sent letters of concern to the editors of every Ohio newspaper about what was being written into the state budget. All of this teamwork contributed to the issue being put on the ballot, and in November of 2011, voters overwhelming repealed Senate Bill 5.

In the aftermath of SB 5, many teachers remained politically active and began to keep a watchful eye on everything that was happening at the Statehouse- not just legislation that affected the rights of public workers. If Ohio lawmakers could so easily follow an outside agenda that enacted policies detrimental to public servants, then continued vigilance from their constituents was the logical course of action. The rights of all Ohioans were at stake.

That outside agenda came from a corporate bill mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly known as ALEC. Because of gerrymandering, most of Ohio’s legislators belong to ALEC, the secretive organization of lawmakers and corporations that has taken over the Ohio Statehouse. ALEC’s corporate policy-makers create bills, such as Senate Bill 5, for ALEC legislators to sponsor and get passed into laws in states all over the country. ALEC bills erode worker rights, consumer rights, and the rights of citizens injured or killed on the job. ALEC promotes the privatization of public agencies and the outsourcing of jobs, and the corporate-funded group was behind efforts to prevent implementation of healthcare reform, such as Medicaid Expansion in Ohio.[1]

ALEC’s top priority is to promote a private for-profit education model- in 2013 alone, 139 education bills written by ALEC were introduced in state legislatures around the U.S., and 31 of those have already become law. Unfortunately, most of Ohio’s Republican legislators are deeply entrenched in following the ALEC playbook and are quick to promote its anti-public school agenda. Look at all of the educational reform that’s recently been put into place that will diminish Ohio’s public schools through high stakes testing, school grade cards, OTES, private school voucher programs, and virtual learning. These are all ALEC initiatives.[2]

Many educators still care enough to be proactive about Ohio politics, but a number of them don’t pay attention to political initiatives anymore unless they directly affect them. They neglect to sign petitions and attend rallies meant to support people’s rights because of claims that they’re too busy to keep track of current legislative campaigns. Some teachers don’t find it necessary to contact their representatives or write letters to newspapers to express their disapproval of unjust laws. Several of them even vote for the same ALEC legislators that have worked to destroy public education in Ohio, even though a little bit of research would help them to express their displeasure of ALEC by voting out its politicians.[3]

The midterm election is upon us, and with it comes the re-election campaigns of many of those politicians who continue to follow the ALEC agenda, including Gov. John Kasich, an alumnus of ALEC who has been an important part of its initiatives over the years. Capitalizing on economic turmoil throughout our state and country, Kasich has worked diligently to further ALEC’s #1 priority, the privatization of many of Ohio’s public entities, since he took office in 2011. To help enable the expansion of his private school voucher program to move forward, the governor and his legislature first created financial hardship through drastic budget cuts, just as in other ALEC-controlled states. Richard Lee Colvin, director of D.C. think tank Education Sector, said: What’s particularly unfortunate about this wave of voucher programs now is that they come at a time when states are so strapped and they are cutting the basic funding for public education. So, we’re undermining public education by our state budgets and then we’re undermining through these voucher programs.[4]

Ohio teachers should heed the wisdom of Dr. Seuss and renew their commitment to standing up for our system of public education, instead of standing by as spectators. Their most powerful tool to positively impact public education is to make well-informed choices for candidates and issues during this very important election that will conclude on November 4, 2014. Vote for candidates who value our public schools, educators, and students.[5]

Times have changed- we teachers cannot afford to just close our doors and work in a vacuum any longer. Unless people like us care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
(c) Join the Future