Shame on the PD and NPR

When the Cleveland Plain Dealer and NPR decided to publish the names of 4,200 Ohio teachers and their value-added grades, their reasoning was specious and self-serving. Most of all, it is damaging to the teaching profession in Ohio.

Despite pointing out all the flaws, caveats, and controversies with the use of value-add as a means to evaluate teachers, both publications decided to go ahead and shame these 4,200 teacher anyway. The publication of teachers names and scores isn't new. It was first done by the LA Times, and was a factor in the suicide of one teacher. The LA Times findings and analysis was then discredited

The research on which the Los Angeles Times relied for its August 2010 teacher effectiveness reporting was demonstrably inadequate to support the published rankings. Using the same L.A. Unified School District data and the same methods as the Times, this study probes deeper and finds the earlier research to have serious weaknesses.


The Plain Dealer analysis is weaker than the LA Times, relying on just 2 years worth of data rather than 7. In fact, the Pleain Dealer and NPR stated they only published 4,200 teachers scores and not the 12,000 scores they had data for because most only had 1 years worth of data. A serious error as value-add is known to be highly unreliable and subject to massive variance.

Beyond the questionable statistical analysis, the publication of teachers names and value-added scores has been criticized by a great number of people, including corporate education reformer Bill Gates, in NYT op-ed titled "Shame Is Not the Solution"

LAST week, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that teachers’ individual performance assessments could be made public. I have no opinion on the ruling as a matter of law, but as a harbinger of education policy in the United States, it is a big mistake.

I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work.

Gates isn't the only high profile corporate education reformer who is critical of such shaming, Wendy Knopp, CEO of Teach for America has also spoken out against the practice

Kopp is not shy about saying what she'd do differently as New York City schools chancellor. While the Bloomberg administration is fighting the United Federation of Teachers in court for the right to release to the news media individual teachers' "value added" ratings—an estimate of how effective a teacher is at improving his or her students' standardized test scores—Kopp says she finds the idea "baffling" and believes doing so would undermine trust among teachers and between teachers and administrators.

"The principals of very high performing schools would all say their No. 1 strategy is to build extraordinary teams," Kopp said. "I can't imagine it's a good organizational strategy to go publish the names of teachers and one data point about whether they are effective or not in the newspaper."

Indeed, if the editors of the Plain Dealer and NPR had read their own reporting, they would have realized the public release of this information was unsound, unfair and damaging. Let's look at the warning signs in their own reporting

...scores can vary from year to year.

Yet they relied upon only 1 years worth of data for much of their analysis, and just 2 for the teachers whose names they published.

...decided it was more important to provide information — even if flawed.

How can it be useful to the layperson to be provided with flawed information? Why would a newspaper knowingly publish flawed information?

...these scores are only a part of the criteria necessary for full and accurate evaluation of an individual teacher.

And yet they publish 4,200 teachers value-added scores based solely on value add, which at best makes up only 35% of a teachers evaluation. Lay people will not understand these scores are only a partial measurment of a teachers effectiveness, and a poor one at that.

...There are a lot of questions still about the particular formula Ohio.

Indeed, so many questions that one would best be advised to wait until those questions are answered before publically shaming teachers who were part of a pilot program being used to answer those questions.

...variables beyond a teacher’s control need to be considered in arriving at a fair and accurate formula.

Yet none of these reporters considered any of these factors in publishing teachers names, and readers will wholly miss that necassary context.

...The company that calculates value-added for Ohio says scores are most reliable with three years of data.

Again, the data is unreliable, especially with less than 3 years worth of data, yet the Plain Dealer and NRP decided they should shame teachers using just 2 years worth of data.

...Ohio’s value-added ratings do not account for the socioeconomic backgrounds of students, as they do in some other states.

How many "ineffective" teachers are really just working in depressed socioeconomic classrooms? The reporters seem not to care and publish the names anyway.

...Value-added scores are not a teacher’s full rating.

No where in the publication of these names are the teachers full ratings indicated. This again leaves lay-people and site visitors to think these flawed value-added scores are the final reflection of a teachers quality

...ratings are still something of an experiment.

How absurd is the decision to publish now seeming? Shaming people on the basis of the results of an experiement! By their very nature experiments can demonstrate something is wrong, not right.

...The details of how the scores are calculated aren’t public.

We don't even know if the value-added scores are correct and accurate, because the formula is secret. How can it be fair for the results of a secret forumla be public? Did that not rasie any alarm bells for the Plain Dealer and NPR?

...The department’s top research official, Matt Cohen, acknowledged that he can’t explain the details of exactly how Ohio’s value-added model works.

But somehow NPR listeners and Cleveland Plain Dealer readers are supposed to understand the complexities, and read the necessary context into the publication of individual teacher scores?

...StateImpact/Plain Dealer analysis of initial state data suggests.

"Initial", "Suggests". They have decided to shame teachers without properly vetting the data and their own analysis - exactly the same problem the LA Times ran into that we highlighted at the top of this article.

It doesn't take a lot of "analysis" to understand that a failing newspaper needed controversy and eyeballs and that their decision to shame teachers was made in their own economic interests and not that of the public good. In the end then, the real shame falls not on teachers who are working hard everyday often in difficult situations made worse by draconian budget cuts, endless political meddling, and student poverty - but on the editors of these 2 publications for putting their own narrow self-interest above that of Ohio's children.

It's a disgrace that they ought to make 4,200 apologies for.

Working together for effective reform in America's public schools

Organized Parents, Organized Teachers - Working together for effective reform in America's public schools. Current national and local education policies often pit teachers and parents against each other, trapping them in a cycle of blame and mistrust. But in one Minneapolis community, parents and teachers decided to work together to make their schools better – with great results. This is their story.

Organized Parents, Organized Teachers - Working together for effective reform in America's public schools from Annenberg Institute on Vimeo.

For more, visit

Union members spotlight - day 4

This is day four of our week long spotlight on union members who have decided to run for the Ohio general assembly.
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

It should be noted that the districts listed below are new as a consequence of the legislative redistricting process that happened last year.

House district 72 - David Dilly (D)
House district 72 - David Dilly
David Dilly is a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). David is the current Coshocton County Recorder. He is running unopposed in the Democratic primary on March 6. Former District 91 incumbent Bill Hayes (R), who voted for SB5 and the budget bill will be his November opponent.

House district 76 - Mary O’Toole (R)
House district 76 - Mary O’Toole
Mary is a member of OEA. With Incumbent Rep Sprague running for election in district 83, Mary is running in a 4 way Republican primary. She will face Tom Warren in the november election if she is succesful.
Learn more about Mary, here.

House district 81 - John Vanover (D)
House district 81 - John Vanover
John is another member of the united Steel workers. john has been involved in the USW rapid response political program, coordinated communications and legislative responses. He's running unopposed to face the extreme Rep Lynn Wachtmann who enthusiastically voted for SB5, and the budget bill (HB153).

House district 87 - Dennis Sterling (R)
House district 87 - Dennis Sterling
Dennis is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). A retired police officer after having served 27 years with the State Highway Patrol, the Dublin Police Department and the Fairborn Police Department. With a background of working for the Fraternal Order of Police, including 10 years of negotiating public safety contracts, Sterling said he plans to approach union negotiations with a "fair, reasonable and right attitude, and restore faith lost through Senate Bill 5". Dennis has also said "My goal is to try to get (local government funds) reinstated to pre-Gov. Kasich amounts," he said. "It needs to come back.".

His position draws a direct contrast to his Republican primary opponent Jeff McClain who voted for SB5 and cutting local budgets.

Tomorrow we will conclude our look at union members who are running for the State House of Representatives, then, on Monday, turn our attention to members running for the State Senate.

Union members spotlight - day 3

This is day three of our spotlight on union members who have decided to run for the Ohio general assembly. Candidates spotlighted on day one, can be found here, and day 2, here.

It should be noted that the districts listed below are new as a consequence of the legislative redistricting process that happened last year.

House district 61 - Susan McGuinness (D)
House district 61 - Susan McGuinness
Susan McGuinness is a member of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA). A Registered Nurse and Chair of the Lake Health Board of Directors, she has said, “Lake County deserves a vigorous voice in Columbus. A voice that, like the people of the county itself, doesn’t address issues from only a political perspective. We need a voice that speaks for the people, not just the party in power. I will be that voice.”

McGuinness added, “We have had our fill of out of touch career politicians who don’t answer to their constituents. I will build on our great assets and work to improve economic, educational, and health opportunities for every citizen of Lake County. I will make sure our government works for us, not against us.”

She is unopposed in the primary and will face Rep. Ron Young who was one of those voices against middle class people when he cast his vote for SB5 and HB153.

House district 68 - Brad Schaff (D)
House district 68 - Brad Schaff
Brad is a member of the United Steel Workers (USW). If he is successful in the primary he is likely to face Rep. Margaret Ruhl who herself is facing a primary contest. Rep Ruhl voted for SB5 and the budget bill (HB153). You can learn more about Brad Schaff, here.

House district 69 - Judith Cross (D)
House district 69 - Judith Cross
Judith Cross is a member of OEA (Ret.) and former Common Pleas Judge. Judy taught elementary school in Brunswick for 12 years. During that 12 year period Judy became involved in the Brunswick Education Association and helped to secure collective bargaining rights for public employees.She will challenge Republican Batchelder, who is speaker of the House. Both are running unopposed in the March 6 primary.
Learn more about Judith Cross, here.

House district 71 - Brady Jones (D)
House district 71 - Brady Jones
Jones has been a pipefitter for 17 years and a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 189. “I’m tired of seeing the middle class get beat up,” he has said, "someone needs to be in office who will represent the core values of the people who elected them."

He is unopposed in the primary and will face incumbent Jay Hottinger, a career politician who supported SB5 and the budget bill that slashed school finances.

House district 73 - Eric Spicer (R)
House district 73 - Eric Spicer
Eric is a member of the FOP, and running in the Republican primary to replace disgraced Rep. Jarrod Martin. In addition to volunteering as a firefighter and medic, Eric Spicer has served as a police officer for over 21 years. He currently serves as Captain of the Greene County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigative Services Unit.
Eric is endorsed by Sheriff Gene Fischer and Treasurer Dick Gould, Sheriff Richard K. Jones – Butler County, Sheriff Brent Emmons – Champaign County, Melissa Litteral – Beavercreek City Councilwoman, Dona Seger-Lawson – Bellbrook City Councilwoman, James Hapner – Fairborn City Councilman, Robert Wood – Fairborn City Councilman, Ralph Fussner – Retired Bellbrook City Council, Phil Oakley – Fairborn Ambassador, Jay McDonald – State FOP President, Chuck Canterbury – National FOP President, Mark Sanders – Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters.

His opponent, Rep.Martin, along with his voting for SB5 and HB153 has been dubbed "America's drunkest legislator".

You can learn more about Eric Spicer, here.

Tomorrow we will spotlight 4 more union members who are running for the Ohio general assembly.

State budget decisions severely harming communities

When the governor and legislature passed the buck on balancing the state's budget, the effects rippled down through hundreds of schools districts, districts like Dublin city schools.

Dublin city schools are excellent with distinction. You don't get any better than that. Now being threatened by the reckless budget, this school district is scheduled to lose $10.9-million of state funding over the next two years. Like so many other districts, Dublin has to choose between damaging cuts, or asking the community for their continued support.

Two central Ohio school districts gave glimpses last night of what might be cut if their tax issues on the November ballot fail.

Potential cuts in Dublin schools include “well over 100 teachers,” among other jobs, Superintendent David Axner said at the district’s Board of Education meeting.
Those cuts would vary depending on whether board members decided to dip into reserve funds. The plan that officials presented last night assumes the board would use about half of the $15 million reserve. But the district still would eliminate about 150 jobs, limit transportation and reduce elective classes.

Although officials haven’t decided on exact numbers, they would eliminate more than 100 teaching jobs from all grade levels, Axner said.

High-school students, who now choose from six foreign languages, would have fewer options. Bus routes would have fewer pickup areas, Deputy Superintendent Mike Trego said. Class sizes would increase.

Not only would an excellent school district be harmed if this levy fails, but at a time when the governor is talking about creating jobs, thousands of quality, important jobs are being lost in school districts like Dublin all over the state.

The budget that passed is now having a three pronged negative effect on the quality of Ohio as a place to live, work and study.

1. It is hurting our future by making it harder to educate our state's children. Less teachers, greater class sizes, less academic choice, less extra curricula activities. Students don't get a second bite at their childhood education.

2. It is hurting our economy. At a time when job creation is hard to come by, we have purposefully decided to destroy thousands of quality jobs that help fuel local economies.

3. Passing the buck to the local level causes either cuts in school quality which adversely affects property values, or causes increases in local taxes to help offset the reckless budget cuts made by the state.

The legislature didn't need to make these choices, other options were open to them, it's hard to imagine a more damaging policy choice than the one that was made.

ps. If you live in the Dublin city school district, vote yes on issue 15.

We're not saying it is hypocritical, but

We're not saying it is hypocritical, but when you pass legislation saying that teachers are to be evaluated on their ability to do the job, then you turn around and hire your own partisan political appointees for a job they have no experience to do, it does make one wonder.

After a months-long search for someone with regulatory experience to ride herd on Ohio’s four casinos, a state panel yesterday chose someone with none.

Matt Schuler, chief of staff for the Republican president of the Ohio Senate, was appointed executive director of the Casino Control Commission. Commission members recruited the 44-year-old Gahanna resident after having trouble enticing regulators from other states to take a similar job in Ohio.

Maybe Mr. Schuler ought to at least take a test?

Matt Schuler was recently at the center of the controvesy over Senate staff getting massive retroactive pay rises.

Every member of senior staff in our caucus was approached about leaving, and we almost lost several other key staff members, Niehaus said. "It became obvious when I heard what some of the offers were that they were in part leaving because of money, so I asked our chief of staff, Matt Schuler, to do a review of salaries."

We guess after his salary review Matt Schuler decided he needed a wee bit more, but even that doesn't appear to be enough as he's now headed for the door to collect what is expected to be a windfall salary of $146,286. He may want to talk to his wife, school board member Jill Schuler. Mrs. Schuler has been a very vocal proponent of "sared sacrifice"

Board member Jill Schuler said she struggles with placing the tax request on the ballot unless all employees make a commitment. She cited no flexibility with personnel costs that make up 80 percent of the district's budget.

"The sacrifices some are making need to be made by the whole," Schuler said.

Like we said, We're not saying it is hypocritical, but...