Education News for 5-29-2013

State Education News

  • Columbus school-levy bill advances in legislature (Columbus Dispatch)
  • After hearing testimony from two Columbus school-board members and others, the Ohio House Education Committee voted 16-3 yesterday to send a bill to the full House that would require a school district property-tax issue…Read more...

  • Gender split proves positive in Hamilton schools (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • The lunch period at any school can sometimes be a chaotic scene of boys and girls vying for each other’s attention…Read more...

  • Lorain Superintendent Tucker outlines comprehensive academic recovery plan (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • On the same day Superintendent Tom Tucker outlined his comprehensive academic recovery plan for Lorain City Schools, its treasurer presented a gloomy financial forecast…Read more...

  • Greenon follows trend on all-day kindergarten (Springfield News-Sun)
  • Kindergartners entering Greenon schools next year will get more time to learn as the district moves to all-day classes, following a state and national trend…Read more...

  • School Nurses Want Law To Help Them Save Students From Deadly Allergic Reactions (WBNS)
  • As the school year comes to an end, state lawmakers will be getting a bill backed by school nurses within the next few weeks. Nurses want to save the lives of students who have allergic reactions to food for the first time while at school…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Columbus board mum on hiring provost (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Columbus Board of Education met privately at noon yesterday to discuss hiring Ohio State University Vice President and Provost Joseph Alutto to become acting superintendent…Read more...

  • Hancock School board to rescind some layoffs (Steubenville Herald-Star)
  • Three months after announcing teacher and other staff layoffs, the Hancock County Board of Education is poised to call some of those people back…Read more...

  • Struthers considers drug tests for athletes (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • The Struthers City School District may begin drug testing its student athletes in grades seven through 12 as soon as the 2013-14 academic year…Read more...

Guest Post: A Comprehensive Union

A guest post by Robert Barkley, Jr., Retired Executive Director, Ohio Education Association, Author: Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders and Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, Worthington, Ohio –

As employee organizations, whether one prefers the term association or union, come under severe attack from many angles, it is time once again to reflect upon exactly what is our duty. Or, to put it in terms I discovered as I worked for several years with a coalition of management and labor, what would it mean to be a “comprehensive union.”

My work in that period of studying such collaboration led me to understand the parallel need for transforming our local associations/unions in tandem with the changes we seek in the school districts with which, and in which, we work.

Unions, like all organizations, go through life cycles. We are at a time in education where the pure trade unionist approach to representing education employees is at least understandable to most, and still appealing to many. Elsewhere this acceptance of even a traditional role for unions is fragile at best. There is a great deal of antipathy toward a union in any form, even among the union's own membership.

Against a backdrop of serious threats to public education as an institution, unions must walk a difficult line between the traditional expectations of many veteran school employees about what their union should be, internal union critics, and the changing expectations represented by many of those entering teaching today. In this climate, those who purport to represent school employees find themselves needing a more comprehensive perspective about what they offer.

Typically employee organizations seek, or should seek, to attend to three aspects of our members work: 1) the labor they engage in, 2) the contribution that labor makes to the community, and 3) the performance level attributed to those efforts.

Consistent with those three aspects a truly comprehensive union must engage in four distinct but interdependent functions. First, the traditional union role has not, probably should not, and cannot go away. At this point in its evolution, the comprehensive union needs to maintain its historic role. But what is that role? From conversations with many members, it seems to boil down to protecting members from the vicissitudes of the systems in which they work. More specifically it is protection from the consequences of out-dated, inadequate, and/or dysfunctional systems.

The second historical and essential role for our organizations is to assure that our members are appropriately rewarded for their labor, contributions, and performance. [Yes, there’s that word performance mixed in with setting compensation. It’s real and must be addressed both intelligently and fairly.]

This leads to the third role for a comprehensive union -- accepting responsibility, in collaboration with others, for the design and continuous improvement of the systems in which our members work. It's not a matter of giving up one for the other. It's a matter of accepting simultaneously the responsibility for protection, system redesign, and accountability.

For decades, designing the systems in which people work has been thought of as the purview of management. In fact, based upon the wording of many "management rights" clauses in bargained contracts, designing the systems and maintaining the quality of work has been essentially off-limits to unions. This was naïve from the beginning and certainly is today.

If one asks members or potential members if they would join for protection, many say yes. Ask them if they would join and support efforts to improve the system in ways that would reduce the need for protection, the response is usually some mix of three replies. One, they don't believe the need for protection would ever go away completely. Two, they never thought of the union as doing that sort of thing. And three, they like the idea, but they're worried that doing the second would compromise doing the first.

Taking on these dual challenges is further than many are ready to go. Yet there appears to be an even more attractive prospect for a transformation to comprehensive unionism. Once fundamental survival needs are met, the greatest service anyone can give workers is the fourth aspect of a comprehensive employee organization: an opportunity for its members to realize joy and satisfaction in their daily work.

I opened by suggesting that all organizations have life cycles. Moving from one established life cycle to the next is never easy nor is the road clear. We are often sustaining one cycle while designing the next. We find ourselves in that dilemma today -- torn between the continuing need for protection and the growing responsibility for improving the system. I have found this concept of the comprehensive union useful in conducting the reflection and dialogue necessary to grow and learn.

Collaborations Between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems

The Center for American Progress just published a report titled "Partnering for Compensation Reform - Collaborations between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems". Whether you support merit pay for teaching or believe it is an effective way to compensate teachers and improve student outcomes, one thing is increasingly clear. Collaboration is essential. This is why SB5 and the SB5 provisions that were included in the state budget were such terrible ideas, doomed to failure.

Here's a brief snippet from the report. Please note that CAP is funded in part by the Eli Broad Foundation, a Corporate education reform booster, but here at JTF we like to bring a depth and breadth of research for you to consider. One of the school systems studied was Toledo.

Through our four case studies of these TIF grantees, the author has identified six common elements at work in these performance-pay partnerships between districts and unions:
  • There is a history of trust—the belief that the other party genuinely wants what is best for you—between teachers’ unions and school district leaders.
  • Leaders identify key challenges together and focus on joint problem solving and learning.
  • Teacher input is encouraged and valued in the design of pay programs.
  • Pay programs embrace a comprehensive approach focused on building teacher capacity, including a focus on new professional development systems and teacher evaluation systems.
  • Teacher participation in pay programs is voluntary.
  • Districts allow for flexibility in program design.

Some critics have raised questions about whether performance pay in particular has an impact on student achievement. A study released in the fall of 2010 by researchers at Vanderbilt University raised questions about the effectiveness of one performance-pay program involving 300 middle-school math teachers in Nashville, TN, suggesting it had little impact on student performance. Notably, however, the Vanderbilt program was narrow in scope, limited largely to a bonus tied solely to test scores, and lacking additional program components or supports for teachers. Unlike the programs we studied, however, the Nashville program did not take a comprehensive approach that tied performance pay to improvements in professional development or to changes in how teachers are evaluated.

More comprehensive and collaborative approaches, such as the partnerships we examined in the four districts receiving TIF funds, are more likely to be successful. There is little reason to expect that a simple bonus by itself can have a profound impact if it is not paired with substantive changes in professional development, teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, and a significant role for teacher leadership and input in schoolwide reform efforts, among other elements. Many of these more comprehensive approaches are just beginning to be put into practice, so little evidence exists yet of their relative effectiveness on student achievement. More research in this area will be helpful in determining the impact of these reforms over the long term.

Partnering for Compensation Reform