Education News for 02-02-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Bill to delay school start until after Labor Day draws educators’ objections (Dispatch)
  • A bill that would change how Ohio schools calculate class time came under fire from both state and local school officials yesterday. But supporters say it would not only keep students in school longer, but also help the state’s tourism industry. Representatives of the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and a local school district testified before the House Education Committee in opposition to a bill that proposes a minimum school year based on the number of hours students spend in school, rather than days. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Groveport Madison to ask: ‘What can you live without?’ (Dispatch)
  • Sports programs, high-school busing or all-day kindergarten could be gone this fall, as Groveport Madison school officials consider $4 million in budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year. But before district leaders come up with a plan to make those reductions, they want to hear from parents and community members about what they think is off-limits and what they are willing to live without. The district will play host to the first of two forums to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Thursday at Groveport Madison High School. Read More…

  • Board OKs phys ed opt-outs (Tribune Chronicle)
  • WARREN - Students of the city school district who participate in athletics and various other activities will now have the option to forego the physical education classes required for graduation. At a special Wednesday afternoon meeting, Warren City Board of Education members Regina Patterson, president, Robert Faulkner and Patricia Limperos approved the second and final reading of the new physical education waiver policy. Board members Andre Coleman and Rhonda Baldwin-Amorganos, who each initially voted against the opt-out policy, were absent. Read More…

  • Unique Curriculum at Holmes Middle School Pays Off (WKRC 12 CBS)
  • Imagine kids who want to go to school... who look forward to learning in colorful rooms, where they sometimes break into a dance. That unique teaching method at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, has been adopted locally by Covington Independent Schools. Local 12 News Reporter Deborah Dixon takes us to Holmes Middle School, where attendance and grades are up, and discipline problems are down. Students start the day in Ms. Wolf's Language Arts Class. "We are going to brainstorm the traits of a hero." Read More…

  • Two companies sue over bus garage (News-Sun)
  • SPRINGFIELD — Two companies are suing entities involved in building the Springfield City School District’s bus garage, according to documents filed in the common pleas court. But the city schools and the Community Improvement Corporation of Springfield and Clark County are not responsible for the payments the companies are seeking, according to the parties involved. “It’s really a dispute between a contractor and a sub-(contractor),” said Jim Peifer, a local attorney who represent CIC, an economic development nonprofit organization. Read More…

  • Lakota board agrees to get ready for $9M in cutbacks (Enquirer)
  • LIBERTY TWP. – Before Lakota Schools can tackle its looming budget shortfall, all officials need to be on the same page – especially administrators and the governing board, said Superintendent Karen Mantia. Mantia, at Wednesday’s board meeting, asked for clarification as to whether its five members agree that cutting $9 million to balance next school year’s budget is the way to go. The unusual request was brought about in part by an extensive and lengthy public discussion during last month’s board meeting that saw Mantia fielding a series of questions, primarily from veteran board member Joan Powell. Read More…

  • No raises for Westerville schools support staff (Dispatch)
  • Support-staff workers in Westerville schools will receive no pay raises for the next two years under a deal unanimously approved yesterday by the Board of Education. But those provisions and a concession on health-care costs will take effect only if the district’s three other unions also take on more of their health-care costs. If the other unions don’t agree, the Westerville Educational Support Staff Association and district will revisit the contract extension. Read More…


  • Claymont Junior High School scores with e-reader funds (Times-Reporter)
  • On Jan. 14, 2012, I was listening to my police scanner when I heard a call for a possible fire at the Lincoln high-rise apartments. When the first officer arrived, he reported the Fire Department needed to step it up, because there was a fully engaged fire. As officers arrived, they entered the building and went to the 4th, 5th and 6th floors. We applaud the initiative shown at Claymont Junior High School, which this week began using Kindle e-readers in seventh- and eighth-grade language arts classes. Read More…

UPDATED: Oops, You're fired!

If you read a lot of corporate education reform "studies" as we do, there's one common theme running through most of them. Much like Mitt Romney, they would really like to fire people, teachers specifically.

The rate at which they want to fire teachers varies, some only want to fire 1 in 20, others would really prefer to fire 1 in 5. The Governor himself would like nothing more than to fire some teachers too (though taking his axe to the states education budget is already doing the heavy lifting)

"We pay good teachers more, but I'm going to suggest that we hold all teachers accountable. Teachers who can't teach shouldn't be in the classroom. ... If we've got teachers who can't do the job there's no excuse for leaving them in the classroom."

The latest round of this fad came in a much ballyhooed study, with front page New York Times treatment.

The New York Times published an article on a new National Bureau of Economic Research study on the long-term effects of high value-added teachers on their students
After a discussion on the costs of keeping a minimally effective teacher, one of the authors, John N. Friedman, remarks, “the message is to fire people sooner rather than later.” His co-author, Raj Chetty, goes further: “Of course there are going to be mistakes—teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.”

That's an uncharacteristic moment of truth. In the desire to fire lots of teachers using unproven data models and evaluation rubrics, there's going to be some collateral damage. Sure you may have spent tens of thousands of dollars, and years of your life earning your degrees so you can pursue your passion, but if some secret proprietary data model says you've got to go, well, them's the breaks, and besides, there's always some casino dealer TFA recruit with 5 weeks of training to ride to the rescue on their white horse.

Nobody want's to see chronically bad teachers in the classroom, but why don't these corporate backed studies and reforms first turn to employing policies to improve struggling teachers abilities, instead of immediately reaching for the ejector cord? Where are the think tank studies on what an effective intervention program would look like? Where's the money for professional development? The Governor, in his own words says he wants to pay good teachers more, when is that going to happen? It's all stick and no carrot.

Who would want to work in a profession that treats its workforce in such a callous and arbitrary manner?

When it comes to increasing the effectiveness of the teacher workforce, school districts should first give an ineffective teacher a chance and the necessary supports to improve. If the teacher does not improve, the district should fire her. But if a teacher can be fired—or believes that she could be— due to a statistical error, the impact on the quality of teaching workforce could be disastrous. Why would a bright young professional choose a career where she could be the mistake?

That's a big important question. It's also a question we have an answer to. Michelle Rhee's legacy of firing "ineffective teachers" is now in plain view, and the view isn't pretty

If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend Washington Post reporter Bill Turque's analysis of Michelle Rhee's legacy one year after she left the D.C. public schools. Turque writes about the "churn and burn" in the D.C. teacher corps since the introduction of the controversial new IMPACT teacher evaluation and merit pay system: One-third of all teachers on the payroll in September 2007 no longer work for the district, and inexperienced teachers are more clustered than ever in low-income schools and neighborhoods. We know this is problematic because DC's own data shows that 22 percent of teachers with six to 10 years of experience are rated "highly effective," compared to just 12 percent of teachers with less than six years experience.

Policies the describe the need to fire lots of people will have a significant, negative, first order effect on the entire workforce. In the end, perhaps like Mitt Romney, those proposing such solutions just like to fire people.


Speaking of liking to fire people. Wow

Education News for 01-05-2012

National Stories of the Day

  • Both Sides Hang Tough on Teacher Evaluations - New York Times
  • When it comes to labor issues, it is often difficult to tell what is really going on. Negotiations are often a game of chicken, with each side holding firm and acting tough — until one side pulls the brake or jumps to safety. In the case of the city’s Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers, it appears, from the outside, that both sides are determined to sail off the cliff. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Akron Public Schools try to win back students - Akron Beacon Journal
  • Leggett elementary, located a few blocks from the Summit County Jail, serves some of the poorest kids in Akron. The school boasts an “Effective” rating on the latest state report cards and a new school building, but Principal Philomena Vincente still faces competition from charter schools. Read More…

  • Dayton Schools hope to avoid $12M deficit – Dayton Daily News
  • Dayton Public School officials are trying to determine whether to put a property tax levy on the November ballot to avoid a projected $12 million deficit in 2014. The school board’s new president, Ronald Lee, said Wednesday that “later this year is a possibility” for a levy. Read More…

  • CPS cited for fire code violations – Cincinnati Enquirer
  • The Cincinnati Fire Department cited Cincinnati Public Schools for numerous safety code violations following a Dec. 26 fire at the vacant building that used to house Quebec Heights School. Fire Chief Ronald Coldiron noted in the citation that the “current condition of the premises presents a hazard to the public and safety personnel.” Read More…

The reform movement is already failing

In my nearly four decades as a historian of education, I have analyzed the rise and fall of reform movements. Typically, reforms begin with loud declarations that our education system is in crisis. Throughout the twentieth century, we had a crisis almost every decade. After persuading the public that we are in crisis, the reformers bring forth their favored proposals for radical change. The radical changes are implemented in a few sites, and the results are impressive. As their reforms become widespread, they usually collapse and fail. In time, those who have made a career of educating children are left with the task of cleaning up the mess left by the last bunch of reformers.

We are in the midst of the latest wave of reforms, and Steven Brill has positioned himself as the voice of the new reformers. These reforms are not just flawed, but actually dangerous to the future of American education. They would, if implemented, lead to the privatization of a large number of public schools and to the de-professionalization of education.

As Brill’s book shows, the current group of reformers consists of an odd combination of Wall Street financiers, conservative Republican governors, major foundations, and the Obama administration. The reformers believe that the way to “fix” our schools is to fire more teachers, based on the test scores of their students; to open more privately-managed charter schools; to reduce the qualifications for becoming a teacher; and to remove job protections for senior teachers.

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Super Who?

Michele Rhee is famous, or in a growing number of eyes, infamous, for implementing a corporate education reform agenda in Washington DC's schools. A significant part of her plan, as it is with corporate education reformers, was to fire teachers. Lots and lots of teachers.

NEWSWEEK did a cover story a few months ago asking why we can't fire bad teachers. Today Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee proved that you can, announcing plans to fire 300 of the district’s 4,000 teachers based on poor performance or licensing issues.

Another 729 teachers will be notified that they have been identified as "minimally effective," according to a new evaluation system Rhee put into effect, meaning that they will not get their scheduled step raise and will have only one year to take advantage of professional-development resources to pull up their performance score or face firing next year. If most of those teachers fail to significantly bump up their performance, the D.C. system could see as many as a quarter of its teachers fired within two years, a prospect Rhee described as "daunting."

We'll sidestep the observation that many have that it's "difficult to fire teachers", when this story demonstrates it was pretty easy to fire 6% of the DC schools teachers in one fell swoops and put another 20% on the chopping block. Instead, let's see what all this firing brought the district. In an Op-Ed this weekend, in the Washington Post, Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, and former Rhee booster, mentioned the newly release NAEP scores for the district

The bad news, however, is that graduation rates are still low, and achievement gaps between the rich and poor sections of town remain vast. Despite the NAEP achievement gains, scores are still among the lowest in the nation’s major city school systems. An analysis by my organization also indicates that the D.C. public schools score well below what one would expect statistically, compared with other cities with similar poverty, language, race, disability and family characteristics. Students show unusual difficulty reading and interpreting texts, evaluating and critiquing information, identifying appropriate measurement instruments, and solving problems involving geometric shapes. There is much more work to be done.

Yes. Rhee fired a lot of teachers, ending their careers - for literally nothing.

SB5 would set us back

Submitted by Bexley Superintendent, Mike Johnson

Public negotiations take two parties to carve out outcomes based on mutual interests to add value and ultimately benefit the community. These mutual interests provide opportunities to serve the common good. The common good principle is a concept that assures everyone will share in the benefit of a service, independent of the wealth and status of any individual community member.

These benefits, whether they are in the form of public education, safety, health, welfare or transportation, are always provided by loyal and dedicated community servants. Community servants allow each of us to have access to a world-class education; provide peace of mind in knowing that our properties are safe and secure; and ensure that the basic needs of the poor, the disabled, the unemployment and the underemployed are met.

Public servants have one negotiation chip, their service. They do not have capital, land or money to bring to the table. They only have their willingness to labor and to serve the public and thereby benefit everyone. The only power that a public servant or public employee can exercise in negotiations is the ability to ultimately withhold services.

In the case of the services provided by fire and police, withdrawal of services would threaten our property interest and personal safety. Therefore, third party arbitration provides for a balance of power during negotiations. Fire and police personnel are secure in knowing that if negotiations are at impasse that a neutral third party will hear the facts and render a decision, while public and private safety are maintained.

If the United States and the state of Ohio are to become leaders in a knowledge economy, then educators must be invited and remain at the table as equals. Educators are knowledge workers and if we are to overcome some very serious national and international challenges, then we will need our teachers to assist all of us in making decisions, designing the best possible research driven solutions and implementing those decisions over time. The full value of our knowledgeable and professional teaching staff will not be realized in an environment where they are on the receiving end of a power shift.

It strikes me as a case of very poor timing to suddenly develop laws to truncate the advantages, negotiations provides for those responsible for growing our economy. In Ohio, we will need to rely more on our intellectual capacities and assets and less on physical inputs or natural resources. I cannot think of a greater source intellectual capacity, than can be found within our K-16 public education community. As Powell and Snellman (2004) state, that an upsurge in knowledge production is associated with the emergence of new industries.

We need to make sure before making any final decision on SB5, that we will achieve the intended ends. Personally, I believe that we are going to experience some adverse unintended consequences as a result of passing such legislation. It is going to take some creative, collaborative, and systemic decision making to keep Ohio at the forefront nationally and internationally.