What of test integrity?

The Atalanta Constitution Journal has a detailed report on the integrity of tests now being used to make high stakes decisions. Their findings are torubling.

The stain of cheating spread unchecked across 44 Atlanta schools before the state finally stepped in and cleaned it up. But across the country, oversight remains so haphazard that most states cannot guarantee the integrity of their standardized tests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

Poor oversight means that cheating scandals in other states are inevitable. It also undermines a national education policy built on test scores, which the states and local districts use to fire teachers, close schools and direct millions of dollars in funding.

The AJC’s survey of the 50 state education departments found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. And most states make almost no attempt to screen test results for irregularities.

The whole article is well worth a read. We have long held that the increased stakes tied to test scores can only increase the incidence of cheating - it happens in every corporate system.

you can see the ACJ survey results here, which include Ohio.

A bridge too far

If you're a school administrator, wondering what your next budget is going to look like, waiting for the release of a new school funding formula, our advice is "don't hold your breath".

Ohio had a school funding formula. Strangley, it still has a website dedicated to it

After 20 years of controversy over its school funding system, Ohio now has a new method for providing funding to its public schools. Enacted as part of the 2010-2011 state budget, the Ohio Evidence-Based Model is designed to fund strategies that have the best chance to help students learn.

While economic realities require that the new approach be phased in over 10 years, the principles underlying the evidence-based model are now in place.

What's more, the new funding model is tied to education reforms designed to build a 21st-century system of education for Ohio.

Unlike the current Attorney General, Mike DeWine, who is winning plaudits for continuing and building upon much of the work of the previous administration, the Governor decided that everything the previous administration had done must go. Whether it worked or not. The Evidenced based model, which brought together hundreds of stakeholders and took years to develop was immediately scrapped. Replaced with a make-it-up-as-we-go-along "bridging formula". It is increasingly likely that a continuing "bridging formula" is on the horizon

But nearly a year later, Kasich, like governors before him, has found that overhauling the way Ohio funds education is not simple math.

The Republican administration concluded a series of public meetings on the issue in September but has yet to release a draft proposal promised for October. And now the governor’s office appears certain to miss a self-imposed deadline of January for unveiling its method of paying for Ohio schools.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the administration is working on its plan, and he doesn’t know when it will be ready.

We asked the Governor's education Czar, Bob Sommers, if he could provide some timetable guidance.

@RDSommers can you give us some guide as to when we might see a funding formula? Is it close, not close? Thanks!
@jointhefutureOH wish I could, but the issues are complex. We continue to study the possibilities. Ideas welcome

We suggested they look at successful models elsewhere in the country, but apparently they don't think there are any. We'd also suggest that they were a little trigger happy in shooting down the Evidence Based Model, and perhaps they could perform some CPR and bring it back with their own modifications.

Either way, the administration has clearly learned that this is no simple task with obvious answers.

Their difficulties will certainly have been further complicated by severe funding cuts as a result of HB153 raiding school budgets, and alienating most school districts and communities with bills like SB5 and HB136. It's hard to collaborate with hundreds of stakeholders when the previous 12 months have been spent attacking them and their mission.

If the administration have learned this lesson we should expect to see more outreach and consultation, and eventually arrive at a funding formula that works for most. Otherwise the administration is going to find itself having traveled a bridge too far.

Final note. We'd like to thank Bob Sommers for engaging in our questions with honest and forthright answers. While we sometimes disagree on fundamental policies, being able to have open and honest policy dialogue is our number one goal, his efforts in this repect advance that.

In the news: retesting teachers

Sparked by the recent revelations of the impact of Ohio's new teacher retesting law, and our call for it to be repealed, a number of media outlets followed up with some mainstream stories

NBC4i ran a short segment

The Columbus Dispatch also ran a good article

The law says teachers can’t be made to pay, but it doesn’t say who will. Ohio uses the Praxis series of exams to test teachers’ knowledge of the subjects they teach. The cost per test ranges from $50 to more than $100, depending on the subject.

“It’s your tax dollars at work,” said Rhonda Johnson, president of the Columbus Education Association.

Teachers groups have been critical of the retesting idea since Gov. John Kasich pitched it. Johnson said the tests won’t measure teacher effectiveness, and they won’t help anyone improve. The real beneficiary of the retesting law will be the testing company, she said.

“Keep weighing the pig. Let’s not feed him anymore. Let’s not do anything but weigh the pig and see if anything changes,” Johnson said.

Robert Sommers, Kasich’s education adviser, has said that retesting is necessary to ensure educators who work in struggling schools are competent in the subjects they teach.

Mark Hill, president of the Worthington Education Association, said the retesting program “ creates a disincentive for teachers to go and take the toughest jobs. We’re punishing them. Why would they ever take that chance?”

As you know, according to the Ohio Department of Education, which Heffner heads, these tests should NOT be used in this manner

Successful completion of required tests is designed to ensure that candidates for licensure have acquired the minimal knowledge necessary for entry-level positions.
The Praxis II tests are not designed to predict performance on the job nor can passing the licensure examination(s) guarantee good teaching.

Can Superintendent Heffner really be clueless about his own department's expert view?

There is no basis for this law, and we maintain that the legislature must act swiftly to repeal it.

SB5 solves exactly zero problems, creates many more


Ohio's teachers unions are fighting the proposal, arguing that by 2014, all schools will implement some type of new evaluation system through Race to the Top or the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants.

"Everything they want to get out of an evaluation system that is linked to student performance will come out of the two federal programs," said Darold Johnson, an Ohio Federation of Teachers lobbyist. "If you are talking about pay, compensation and evaluations, that is all going to happen in the time frame. We don't need Senate Bill 5 for that. We don't need it in the budget."

If the system is developed locally, with teachers and administrators working together, it will be easier to implement, Johnson said.

It only gets hard once you have decided to go down a path that doesn't involve broad consultation, not listening to classroom teachers, and relies on eliminating collective bargaining in order to pursue corporate reform solutions that don't work.

SB5 and its companion provisions in the budget were never designed to solve education problems, they were designed to address a partisan political agenda - with public education, and classroom teachers, the victim of that fight.