Education News for 09-26-2012

State Education News

  • State report cards to be posted today (Canton Repository)
  • The Ohio Department of Education will post school report cards today — minus the grades…Read more...

  • State issues schools’ slimmer report cards (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The slim version of Ohio’s school report cards that will go public today is like a hamburger without the bun…Read more...

  • Education Nation: Obama, Romney outline their plans (WKYC)
  • For the third straight year, the top minds in education are meeting in New York City for the annual education nation summit. Education is center-stage in the presidential election…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Budget woes continue for Akron schools (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • The cash-strapped Akron Public Schools took an unexpected budget hit this week with news that the district must repay more than $3 million…Read more...

  • No clarity on Coleman’s role in school district (Columbus Dispatch)
  • A special joint committee of the Columbus City Council and Columbus school board met yesterday, but with no clearer idea of how their relationship has changed…Read more...

  • PETA Seeks to Put Vegan Ads on CMSD Lunch Trays (WJW)
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Or PETA, has made a unique proposal to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to help take a bite out…Read more...

  • Emotions run high at levy debate (WKYC)
  • It was an emotionally-charged debate in the heart of Cleveland's Lee-Harvard neighborhood. Community activists organized an informative debate…Read more…


  • Open doors amid school controversy (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Arrogance among those elected to represent the people's interests sometimes reaches intolerable levels. Often it involves keeping secrets from the public…Read more...

The Debate over Teacher Merit Pay

The term “merit pay” has gained a prominent place in the debate over education reform. First it was D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee trumpeting it as a key to fixing the D.C.’s ailing public schools. Then a handful of other cities gave it a go, including Denver, New York City, and Nashville. Merit pay is a big plank of Education Secretary Arne Duncan‘s reform platform. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has just launched his own version of merit pay that focuses incentives toward principals. There’s just one problem: educators almost universally hate merit pay, and have been adamantly opposed to it from day one. Simply, teachers say merit pay won’t work.

In the last year, there’s been some pretty damning evidence proving them right; research showing that merit pay, in a variety of shapes and sizes, fails to raise student performance. In the worst of cases, such as the scandal in Atlanta, it’s contributed to flat-out cheating on the part of teachers and administrators. So, are we surprised that educators don’t respond to monetary incentives? Is that even the right conclusion to draw?

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Van Roekel: The NEA Plan for Teacher Accountability

By Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association

This summer, the National Education Association took a historic vote and adopted a new policy statement. It put us on the record, for the first time, as calling for a comprehensive overhaul of both teacher evaluation and accountability systems to improve professional practice and advance student learning.

Why now?

The myopic focus of the current education reform debate promotes lowering professional standards, finding quick and cheap ways to rate teachers based solely on tests, and making it easier to fire “bad” teachers while lowering the bar to enter the profession.

The irony is that teachers themselves have long complained that evaluation systems are broken. They have been some of the most forceful advocates for better evaluations linked to meaningful feedback and support. What’s been missing is sufficient guidance – developed by and for teachers – to help navigate this challenging and complicated environment.

The policy statement is an opportunity for NEA and our members to assert ourselves in a debate that has been raging for years. We know that current systems for teacher evaluation and accountability can be improved, but too often in the past we have simply taken a defensive posture, trying to prevent damaging policies instead of promoting those that will actually raise student achievement.

We have heard all of the bad ideas. Now it’s time for us to take the lead, and draw on our experience to propose policies that will actually work for students. This is our profession and our responsibility.

Our new policy statement lays out rigorous standards and delineates the multiple indicators of teacher practice that must be taken into account in an evaluation and accountability system. It clearly articulates the link between teacher accountability and student success and defines an appropriate evaluation system. And it signals a commitment to a new, more prestigious profession of teaching:

  • It includes student learning and growth indicators as one of three key components of evaluation systems.  
  • It calls for a well-designed system for improving a struggling teacher’s practice, and should that teacher not improve within a specific time, the policy statement provides for a fair and expedient dismissal process. 
  • It calls for support for beginning teachers so that they will not just stay and survive, but thrive in the profession.

In adopting this policy statement, our members said loud and clear that we want to raise standards for the teaching profession, not lower them. And we want to provide leadership on one of the toughest education issues today.

Now the real hard part begins, as we start to translate this policy into action. We have a chance to define the teaching profession for the next generation, and we will not let that opportunity slip through our grasp.

Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association and a 23-year teaching veteran.

Certainty And Good Policymaking Don’t Mix

Using value-added and other types of growth model estimates in teacher evaluations is probably the most controversial and oft-discussed issue in education policy over the past few years.

Many people (including a large proportion of teachers) are opposed to using student test scores in their evaluations, as they feel that the measures are not valid or reliable, and that they will incentivize perverse behavior, such as cheating or competition between teachers. Advocates, on the other hand, argue that student performance is a vital part of teachers’ performance evaluations, and that the growth model estimates, while imperfect, represent the best available option.

I am sympathetic to both views. In fact, in my opinion, there are only two unsupportable positions in this debate: Certainty that using these measures in evaluations will work; and certainty that it won’t. Unfortunately, that’s often how the debate has proceeded – two deeply-entrenched sides convinced of their absolutist positions, and resolved that any nuance in or compromise of their views will only preclude the success of their efforts. You’re with them or against them. The problem is that it’s the nuance – the details – that determine policy effects.

Let’s be clear about something: I’m not aware of a shred of evidence – not a shred – that the use of growth model estimates in teacher evaluations improves performance of either teachers or students.

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Union-Management Collaboration Can Help Public Schools

For most of the past decade the policy debate over improving U.S. public education has centered on teacher quality. In this debate, teachers and their unions have often been seen as the problem, not part of the solution. Further, current discourse often assumes that conflicting interests between teacher unions and administration is inevitable. What is missing in the discussion, however, is a systems perspective on the problem of public school reform that looks at the way schools are organized, and the way decisions are made. Most public schools today continue to follow an organizational design better suited for 20th century mass production than educating students in the 21st century.

"Reforming Public School Systems Through Sustained Union-Management Collaboration," a paper by Saul A. Rubinstein and John E. McCarthy, offers an alternate path in this debate—a counterstory that looks at schools as systems. It focuses on examples of collaboration among stakeholders through the creation of labor-management partnerships among teachers’ unions, school administrators, and school boards. These partnerships improve and restructure public schools from the inside to enhance planning, decision-making, problem solving, and the ways teachers interact and schools are organized.

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