Mutual trust and respect

It's a simple, honest message, "As long as there is mutual trust and respect, Unions representing teachers can work well with school administrators to improve schools while still honoring the principles of collective bargaining." ~ OEA spokeswoman Michele Prater.

As opposed to "Gov. Kasich Supports Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Plan to Overhaul Schools Because it is Similar to SB 5".

Mayor Frank Jackson and the state legislature, having consistently failed to show trust and respect on this issue, should begin to do so before moving any further forward with this corporate education plan. If this sentiment has any substance, the Governor should ensure that happens.

The attack on collective bargaining

Policy Matters Ohio has just released a report looking at the Benefits of Bargaining, titled "How Public Worker Negotiations Improve Ohio Communities". You can read the full report here (PDF).

We've pulled out the executive summary dealing with education.

Teachers: Teachers’ unions bargain to improve classroom conditions, benefitting teachers and students alike. Some of the issues teachers’ unions negotiate that improve student outcomes are:

  • Class size: Teachers’ unions often bargain to maintain low class sizes, especially in K-3 classes. Studies have shown that small classes are especially helpful to younger students, low-income students and students from minority communities. Small classes enable more writing assignments, better student-teacher relationships, and safer, more stable classroom atmospheres. We found that teacher unions often bargain to shrink and maintain class sizes, while management sometimes seeks to save money by increasing class sizes.
  • Discipline plans: Public employers and teachers’ unions use collective bargaining to develop discipline plans for students in order to minimize classroom disruptions. Under Senate Bill 5, discipline plans can be made without teacher input, which could undermine teacher authority and increase disruption. We also found examples of proactive union steps to prevent discipline problems. The Cleveland Teachers’ Union has negotiated to create In-School-Suspensions, to keep students off the streets and ensure discipline challenged students get proper treatment.
  • Improving school quality: Teacher unions fight for classes that improve curriculum. They have negotiated to ensure multiple choices of foreign language classes in high schools and to ensure music, art, and physical education classes in elementary schools. These classes also provide preparation periods for core-class teachers, which can improve their performance.
  • Improved Evaluations: Ohio teacher unions have been especially proactive in creating teacher evaluation and training systems. The Toledo Federation of Teachers created the Peer-Assistance and Review (PAR) program in the 1980’s, which pairs veteran teacher mentors with newly-hired or struggling teachers to provide guidance and evaluation. The PAR program is now in over 70 school districts around the country, including Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, and has been praised as one of the best systems for improving new teacher quality.
  • Our contract and literature review also found seniority in layoffs is not well understood. Generally seniority is only used as a tie-breaker after other circumstances have been considered, and principals retain a large amount of discretion in hiring and layoffs.

Policy Matters Ohio reminds us of some of the provisions within SB5 that constitute the attack on collective bargaining

Senate Bill 5 was passed in March 2011. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Eliminating the right to strike for all public workers;
  • Limiting the right to bargain over health insurance, pensions, staffing levels and working conditions;
  • Confining bargaining rights for state-level employees to wage issues only;
  • Eliminating binding arbitration, a process for resolving impasses for safety forces, described below;
  • Allowing the legislative body to impose its own resolution in the case of an impasse;
  • Reclassifying most professors as management to take them out of bargaining units;
  • New minimum requirements for employee contributions to health insurance and pensions;
  • Restricting the ability of teachers to advocate for more effective classroom practices, including smaller class sizes and better teacher evaluations.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio oppose HB136

In another blow to those seeking to privatize public education in Ohio, the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Ohio have come out in opposition to HB136

-The League believes that public money should be spent only on public schools that are accountable and responsive to tax payers and comply with standards that ensure a high quality education. Nonpublic schools are not accountable to the taxpayers through elected boards of education; are not required to “open their books” to ensure that the schools are fiscally responsible and that public funds are being spent to serve a public purpose; are not required to serve all students; and are not required to comply with the same operating, teacher licensure, performance, and accountability standards as public schools.

-In addition, Am. Sub. HB136 would divert public funds to private schools (and increase Ohio’s obligation to educate students in private schools) when state funding for public schools will decrease by $1.8 billion over the biennium (HB 153 – Amstutz), and many school districts are cutting programs, laying-off teachers, and preparing to ask voters to increase local taxes to support schools.

The League believes that public education is the cornerstone of our democratic government and prepares students to be active and informed citizens in our society. That is why securing and financing a high quality public education system based on meeting standards, accountable to the public, and available for all students, is so important.

The League also issued these other important points

  • Am. Sub. HB 136 would divert limited state funds to participating private schools at a time when school districts are struggling to balance budgets and save education programs after losing $1.8 billion in state funds as a result of HB153 the biennial budget.
  • Private schools are not responsive or accountable to elected boards of education. They are not required to "open their books" to ensure that the private schools are fiscally responsible and that public funds are being spent to serve a public purpose.
  • Eligible students currently enrolled in eligible private schools could opt to be phased-into PACT, thus expanding the state's obligation to educate students who never attended public schools, at a time when overall state funding for school districts has decreased, and school districts are struggling to maintain the quality of their education programs.
  • Am. Sub. HB 136 does not require private schools that accept public funds to participate in Ohio's accountability system for schools and be ranked along with other schools, or comply with all state education standards including academic, performance, and operating standards, or meet the requirements outlined in Chapter 3323 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Education of Children with Disabilities.

Linking Student Data to Teachers a Complex Task, Experts Say

As more and more states push legislation tying teacher evaluations to student achievement – a policy incentivized by the federal Race to the Top program – many are scrambling to put data systems in place that can accurately connect teachers to their students. But in a world of student mobility, teacher re-assignments, co-teaching, and multiple service providers, determining the roster of students to attribute to a teacher is more complicated than it may sound.
Jane West, vice president of policy, programs, and professional issues for the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, stressed that while there's a need to track the performance of teacher-education graduates, "we have a long way to go" before the data can be considered reliable.

Teachers who leave the state, teach out-of-field, or move to private schools are nearly impossible to track, she said. And teachers in non-tested subjects and grades are out of the mix as well. Last year, the University of Central Florida was only able to get student-achievement data for 12 percent of its graduating class, yet that information was reported publicly. "What's the threshold?" West asked. "Where's the check to ensure that's a valid and reliable measure? It needs to be more than 12 percent."

In all, the Data Quality Campaign’s conference was tightly managed and left little opportunity for audience participation, offering attendees a controlled (though still controversial) takeaway: that improved student achievement hinges on improving the teacher-student data link.

[readon2 url="http://aacte.org/index.php?/Media-Center/AACTE-in-the-News/linking-student-data-to-teachers-a-complex-task-experts-say.html"]Read the entire article..[/readon2]

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.