A Worthington teacher testifies against HB153

OEA member and WEA President Mark Hill's written testimony against HB 153

Chairman Widener, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee, my name is Mark Hill. I am a math teacher in the Worthington City Schools currently serving as president of the Worthington Education Association. Thank you for allowing me to offer testimony on HB153.

I come today to talk to you about the teacher accountability provisions in HB 153. I have some concerns about the structure for accountability that is in the version passed out of the House.

I would like to begin by saying that I don’t have a problem with a rigorous evaluation system for teachers nor do I disagree with the notion of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom. That may sound unusual coming from a leader of a local teachers union but I am a parent, too, and I care about access to a high quality education for my kids. The teachers I represent take a great deal of pride in teaching in an excellent school district; many of them live in the district and all of them want it to remain excellent; none of them want to work alongside a bad teacher.

HB153, as passed by the House, goes too far. It requires teachers to be rated highly effective, effective, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory based on an evaluation in which 50% of the score is measuring student growth through value added scores averaged over three years. It requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to set a minimum level value added measure for a teacher for each of the rating levels. Furthermore, it imposes draconian penalties for teachers who are rated as unsatisfactory or needs improvement including imposition of unpaid leave on a teacher rated at those levels if their principal does not consent to placing them in their building the next year effectively ending their careers.

Value added scores are a great concept but as a statistical measure, they are fraught with error. Scores fluctuate by random error; in Houston’s value added system only 38% of the top fifth remained in the top rating the next year. 23% of the top fifth in performance ended up being in the bottom fifth the next year and vice versa. Fluctuations like that defy reason; it is highly unlikely that a fourth of the top teachers in Houston one year were poor performers the next.

According to another study done for the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation found that, using three years of data, a teacher who should be rated as average has a 25% chance of being rated significantly below average. A teacher who should be rated as a top performer has a 10% chance of being rated significantly below average. This means under HB 153, 25% of the average teachers in Ohio and 10% of the good teachers in Ohio would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs due to statistical error. I hope the Ohio General Assembly would not want to add a “Wheel of Fortune” element to teachers’ careers.

Under this system, who would take care of the kids? There are teachers who ask for the students with behavior problems and learning disabilities because they care about them and believe they deserve an education. Under HB 153, these teachers would be putting their career at risk to do so. My own son has Aspergers Syndrome, which is a condition on the autism spectrum – who will want to teach him? Under HB153, math and reading teachers are far more at risk for losing their jobs than other teachers because those are the only areas with enough scores to build a value-added modeling system. Who would want to work in an area where you are constantly worrying about losing your job due to a statistical error?

I don’t come just to complain but to offer solutions. First, you’ve already passed this framework for evaluation in Senate Bill 5. There is no logical reason to duplicate it in HB153 – frankly, I don’t believe it belongs in either bill but should be a subject of debate on its own.

Second, instead of mandating 50% value added, allow the local education agency to decide how to best fit value added in their evaluations. This is the system under Race to the Top – Worthington is a Race to the Top district, so we have already agreed to rate teachers’ effectiveness through evaluation using value added modeling. A top down statewide approach will have serious unintended consequences.

Thank you for listening.

Please contact your State Senator and ask them to remove the SB5 provisions from HB153 (the budget bill).