On Teacher Quality

Rhonda Johnson, a Columbus City Schools educator and President of CEA has a great letter published on the Reimagine Columbus Education website, that we wanted to share

Our goal as a community must be to have a competent, caring and high-quality teacher in every classroom. Why? Teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in a high- quality education.

To that end, we must invest in high-quality teaching and organize schools for success for all of our students. This trumps other investments, such as reduced class size, overall spending on education, and teacher financial incentives and salaries.

There are clear conditions that must be present to attract and retain high-quality teachers, especially in challenging schools.

Pre-service preparation through appropriate and rigorous experiences at the university, in collaboration with faculty and public school teachers, is crucial. Teacher preparation programs, state departments of education and school districts must engage in residency programs analogous to the residency model in schools of medicine.

School leadership matters . . . a lot. Principal behavior is the primary factor affecting a teacher’s decision to stay at or leave a particular school. In fact, leadership behavior is a stronger predictor of teacher retention than either student demographics or achievement.

Teaching and learning conditions — such as job-imbedded professional development, teaching assistants and administrative support— matter more than individual financial incentives. In partnership with communities, school districts must provide sufficient resources to get the job done — newer technologies, instructional equipment and supplies, and access to social and health services.

Schools must provide the opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively with peers who share the responsibility for every student’s success. Teachers must work with colleagues to analyze student work, plan lessons and build relationships with students and families.

Effective teachers are committed to creative teaching and inquiry learning. Teaching is about discovery, learning and awe, not minute-by-minute curriculum mandates, scripted instruction and testing.

Education policymakers and administrators would be well served by recognizing the complexity of the issue of teacher quality and adopting multiple measures along many dimensions to support existing teachers and to attract new, highly qualified teachers.

Research suggests that investing in teachers can make a difference in student achievement. To implement needed policies associated with staffing every classroom — even the most challenging ones — with high-quality teachers, substantial and targeted investments must first be made in teaching quality.

Ohio Media Ignore Financial Link Between Failing Charter School Operators And New Charter-Friendly Education Plan

Via Media Matters

Ohio media reporting on Gov. John Kasich's (R) new education funding plan neglected to inform readers that the plan funnels millions of dollars in increased spending to private schools and charter schools whose operators have donated millions in campaign contributions to Kasich and Republicans in the state legislature.
Ohio's largest print news outlets -- including the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dayton Daily News, Toledo Blade, and the Beacon Journal -- not only ignored the financial connections between Kasich's charter-friendly plan and his campaign donors, they also failed to note that the charter school industry is receiving this boon despite consistently performing well below Ohio's traditional public school districts. Recently released report cards for the 2011-12 school year indicated that "while 92 percent of the state's public school districts scored effective or higher...only 26 percent of charter schools did."

The amount of tax payer money being transfered to Ohio's terrible charters schools under the Governors new funding plan is quite staggering. all told it is likely to be close to $1 billion a year.

Education News for 11-26-2012

State Education News

  • Many Ohio 3rd-graders at risk of failing (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • Thousands of Ohio third-graders face being held back in school if they can’t improve their reading proficiency by year’s end — and the problem could be even worse next year…Read more...

  • Schools critics open new front in seclusion-room fight (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Furthering its quest to end Columbus schools' use of seclusion rooms for disabled students, a state disability-rights group has filed a formal complaint against the district with the Ohio Department of Education…Read more...

  • Education conference reflects tough economy (Middletown Journal)
  • Local school administrators were among the nearly 10,000 education professionals who attended the 57th annual Ohio School Board Association Capital Conference and Trade Show last week in Columbus…Read more...

  • District’s financial recovery may take 5 years (Middletown Journal)
  • Members of the state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission said it will take three to five years before the effects of Monroe Schools’ passed levy will be seen…Read more...

  • State Educators Agree to Replace the OGT (WSYX)
  • State education leaders have agreed on a plan for replacing the Ohio Graduation Test with a nationally standardized college readiness test, such as the ACT, and 10 subject-area exams…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Schools in Singapore may provide lessons for educators here (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Helen Williams knew little about Singapore before traveling there this spring to learn about its education system. What she had heard were the tales of people caned for minor offenses and stereotypes about Asian schools…Read more...

  • Pay freezes, cuts saving millions at local schools (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Staff pay freezes have become the rule, rather than the exception, at Miami Valley public school districts…Read more...


  • Cleveland-area school districts must work harder to keep children who move frequently from falling (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Students who often change schools -- making them hard to track and harder to teach -- have long been a problem in many Ohio school systems…Read more...

  • Fair assessment (Columbus Dispatch)
  • As Ohio lawmakers work through this lame-duck session, one item on the hurry-up agenda demands attention: revamping the report cards…Read more...

Education News for 11-19-2012

State Education News

  • A school-rating revamp? (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio schools won’t receive an overall grade on state-issued report cards for the next two years under a Republican plan to ramp up the school-accountability system…Read more...

  • 35 district jobs to be cut to fill $2.8M budget hole (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Teachers cried and students begged the school board to change its mind, but in the end, few in a crowd of probably 200 people left on Thursday night with much hope that 35 district jobs can be saved…Read more...

  • Disabilities board asks districts to pay fee for school programs (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Starting next fall, the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities will ask local school districts to pick up part of the tab when children attend its preschool and school-age programs…Read more...

  • Schools changing texting policies (Middletown Journal)
  • At a time when many school districts are crafting stricter regulations about teachers text messaging with students…Read more...

  • Student turnover dependent on several factors at local schools (Zanesville Times-Recorder)
  • Elementary school students in Zanesville City Schools lost about 20 percent of their classmates in two years. In contrast, the turnover in the East Muskingum Local Schools was only 8 percent between 2009 and 2011…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Fourteen more Jackson High victims identified, total is 38 (Canton Repository)
  • Police have identified 14 more Jackson High student-athletes who were videotaped nude in locker room showers…Read more...

  • Two panels debate options for schools levy (Columbus Dispatch)
  • After the Columbus Board of Education scrapped plans to put a tax increase on the presidential-election ballot, Superintendent Gene Harris has been preparing for the next push with two groups of community leaders…Read more...

  • Diabetes a challenge for schools (Columbus Dispatch)
  • A rapidly rising rate of students with diabetes in Columbus public schools and persistent struggles in reading proficiency are among the challenges…Read more...

  • Districts recognized for financial transparency (Middletown Journal)
  • Twelve of the 45 school districts or schools in Ohio that earned a Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for fiscal year 2011 are located in the Miami Valley…Read more...


  • Crossing the finish line (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Despite being the seventh-most-populous state, with colleges and universities almost everywhere one looks, Ohio is 37th in the nation for the percentage of adults…Read more...

Education News for 07-13-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Senate explores limits to schools’ use of restraints (Dispatch)
  • WASHINGTON — Violently restraining and secluding problematic students in small, inescapable areas actually increases assaults and behavior problems, experts yesterday told a Senate committee that is considering legislation to curtail the practice. Many schools rely on seclusion and restraint to control students with behavior problems, especially minorities and those with disabilities, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Read more...

  • Officials stress literacy — by reading to preschoolers (News-Sun)
  • SPRINGFIELD — A new law requiring children to read on grade level to move past the third grade has made literacy at an early age more critical than ever for Ohio families, according to local officials. State Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, and Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly visited Creative World of Learning, a local child care center, to read with preschool students and stress the importance of literacy skills Thursday morning. Read more...

  • Lisbon holding out hope for an ‘A’ (Morning Journal)
  • LISBON -While the school district is currently expected to receive a B on the next state report card, it could still earn an A by the time the report cards are issued next month. School Superintendent Don Thompson reported at this week's school board meeting preliminary results have the district receiving an "effective rating," or B, but they could end up with an A, or "excellent rating" once the value-added component is figured in, which has yet to be done. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Pay-to-play at Frontier tabled; lunch costs to increase (Marietta Times)
  • NEW MATAMORAS - The Frontier Local Board of Education tabled a proposal to charge a participation fee for sports Thursday and voted to increase student lunch prices by a quarter. The agenda for the board's regular meeting Thursday included an item to approve an athletic participation fee of $25 per sport, with an annual maximum of $50 for one student and $75 for one family. The subject was broached at the June board meeting, but Superintendent Bruce Kidder and board members said Thursday they hadn't received any input from residents about the policy. Read more...

  • Brecksville-Broadview Heights school board will continue with negotiations (Sun News)
  • In response to the July 11 announcement that the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Education Association had taken a strike authorization vote, the Brecksville-Broadview Heights school board said it will continue to negotiate with the unions on a fair and equitable contract. The vote does not mean that the union is on strike or will strike. It means that if the board forces a contract on the union, the union could give a 10-day notice and then strike. As of now, the board has not forced a contract on the union. Read more...

  • West Geauga School District earns award for financial reporting (News-Herald)
  • The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to the West Geauga School District by the Government Financial Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada for its comprehensive annual financial report. The award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. Read more...

Merit pay and the candle problem

Let us pretend for one moment that many of the corporate education reforms being proposed offered more than just a metaphorical big stick with which to fire teachers more easily, but also a few carrots too in the form of extra money toward paying high performers as determined by their students test scores. Yes, yes, we know.

Let's go even further, and pretend that student test scores were the perfect means with which to judge the effectiveness of any teacher. What do we know of financial incentives? From Nature magazine.

here's a simple fact we've known since 1962: using money as a motivator makes us less capable at problem-solving. It actually makes us dumber.

In the 1940, an experiment was carried out, now referred to as the "Candle Problem". The experiment has the participant try to solve the problem of how to fix a lit candle on a wall in a way so the candle wax won't drip to the floor. The participant can only use (along with the candle) a book of matches and a box of thumbtacks.

Let's go back to that Nature article to explain the rest of the experiment, and it' counterintuitive results

The only answer that really works is this: 1.Dump the tacks out of the box, 2.Tack the box to the wall, 3.Light the candle and affix it atop the box as if it were a candle-holder. Incidentally, the problem was much easier to solve if the tacks weren't in the box at the beginning. When the tacks were in the box the participant saw it only as a tack-box, not something they could use to solve the problem. This phenomenon is called "Functional fixedness."

Sam Glucksberg added a fascinating twist to this finding in his 1962 paper, "Influence of strength of drive on functional fixedness and perceptual recognition." (Journal of Experimental Psychology 1962. Vol. 63, No. 1, 36-41). He studied the effect of financial incentives on solving the candle problem. To one group he offered no money. To the other group he offered an amount of money for solving the problem fast.

Remember, there are two candle problems. Let the "Simple Candle Problem" be the one where the tacks are outside the box -- no functional fixedness. The solution is straightforward. Here are the results for those who solved it:

Simple Candle Problem Mean Times :
WITHOUT a financial incentive : 4.99 min
WITH a financial incentive : 3.67 min
Nothing unexpected here. This is a classical incentivization effect anybody would intuitively expect.

Now, let "In-Box Candle Problem" refer to the original description where the tacks start off in the box.

In-Box Candle Problem Mean Times :
WITHOUT a financial incentive : 7:41 min
WITH a financial incentive : 11:08 min
How could this be? The financial incentive made people slower? It gets worse -- the slowness increases with the incentive. The higher the monetary reward, the worse the performance! This result has been repeated many times since the original experiment.

We've published a video on this phenomenon before, titled "As Teacher Merit Pay Spreads, One Noted Voice Cries, ‘It Doesn’t Work’", and an article from the Harvard Business Review, titled "Stop Tying Pay To Performance".

Here's another video - The surprising truth about what motivates us

Knowing all this begs the question, why are we going down the path of some of these corporate education reforms, when we have known for over half a century many of them are flawed concepts that have been demonstrated to fail time and time again?