DNC Convention Day 1 - Democrats Strike Back

Day one of the DNC convention in North Carolina included the release of the Democratic Party platform. The Washington Post has a rundown of all the education mentions, which include this section

Because there is no substitute for a great teacher at the head of a classroom, the President helped school districts save more than 400,000 educator jobs.

We Democrats honor our nation’s teachers, who do a heroic job for their students every day. If we want high-quality education for all our kids, we must listen to the people who are on the front lines. The President has laid out a plan to prevent more teacher layoffs while attracting and rewarding great teachers. This includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching, and retaining good teachers. We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process if another teacher has to be put in the classroom. We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent’s involvement in their child’s education.

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland delivered a stemwinder of a speech

“Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed titled, ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’ If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation,” Strickland told the crowd Tuesday night. “Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.”

Strickland led off by lambasting Romney’s opposition to the 2008 auto rescue, which was especially critical to Ohio’s industrial economy.

“If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation,” Strickland said.

But far more than a simple policy speech, Strickland portrayed Romney as a morally suspect and deeply un-American villain willing to do anything to make a dollar no matter who was hurt. His Caribbean holdings and past use of a Swiss bank account drew the toughest condemnation.

“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport,” Strickland said. “It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America.”

The highlight of the evening for the gathered Democrats was a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama, that brought tears and applause from most in attendance

Here's the word cloud of her speech

Day one of the DNC convention then, saw the Democrats strike back at the Republicans, whose own convention has produced little bounce in the polls.

The real fight over SB5 is still ahead

Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for the Ohio General Assembly. We had looked earlier at the impact of incumbents of the Ohio House of Representatives voting for SB5 would have on their reelection chances.

14 SB5 supporters could not survive a 5% swing from their margin of victory in 2010 (2 didn’t even reach the 50% threshold due to a third party taking significant support). With only a 10-seat margin to maintain control, it is quite possible that control of the Ohio House will swing away from the Republicans and back to the Democrats.

Such a swing, could put a halt to the Governors radical agenda and turn the remaining 2 years of his first term into a lame duck effort.

Now some of this calculation is complicated by the recent redistricting, but as Gongwer notes, the 2012 elections are shaping up to be a continuation of the fight over SB5

SB5 Redux?: In some ways, the contest for control of the House next session is shaping up as a proxy battle between the two sides in the fight over the collective bargaining law changes (SB 5) that voters rejected last month in a referendum vote.

House Democrats, for example, noted that a number of educators have filed to run and Speaker Batchelder said the GOP newcomers include an ample amount of businesspeople.
Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Athens), the House Democratic Caucus Campaign co-chair, said 2002 Teacher of the Year Maureen Reedy, who is seeking the open 24th House District seat in Franklin County, is among at least 10 teachers running for the House as Democrats.

"State budget cuts and the unfair attacks in SB5 have put educators and our children's education directly in the crosshairs of the Republican's anti-middle class agenda and teachers are standing up, fighting back and getting involved," Rep. Phillips said in a release. "We are very excited to have so many great teachers running for office. They are trusted and well known in their communities, which are two key components of electoral success."

While some candidates might have a difficult task ahead of them due to the gerrymandering of districts, the overwhelming rejection of SB5 is likely to create some very sharp contrasts for voters to decide upon.

What teachers are telling the Governor: Day 3

Day 3 in our on going series of publishing comments provided to the Governor on his request for input on teacher evaluation and merit pay.

Subject: Hmm, how should teachers be paid?

Here's why a merit-based system for teachers has it's flaws:
- Improvements in a student's organization, self-esteem, confidence, social skills, behaviors, etc. are hard to measure.
A teacher may take a challenging social group, and improve things listed above, but still struggle with test scores.
Should they really be penalized for not meeting the test "quota" despite improving a child's life skills?
- Merit-systems have proven to lead to corruption & the abandoning of meaningful lessons for test-taking drills.
Turning a public service into a for-profit business is unfair to the already endless struggles faced by students.
- Who evaluates the teacher? ..The principal? How is there any certainty that he/she will objectively evaluate the teacher free of non-teaching-related criteria?
-Competition between teachers who are expected to collaborate for a common good (the student.)
The current process DOES have an evaluation system in place. When teachers perform unsatisfactorily, they can be assigned a "Peer Assistance Review" mentor who observes the struggling/ineffective teacher and provides support & feedback for getting him/her "back on track."

Teachers, like students, each have elements of their personalities & skills that shine above others. If we're adjusting our practices to meet the same performance criteria, how sad that many students will miss out on some of the unique talents that some teachers might be reluctant to share, or that some pioneering teachers might be unwilling to stray from the norm & try new practices.

The fact is, teachers, like a private-sector worker who personally approaches his/her boss about a raise, have already collectively agreed on what they consider a fair wage. Many of the restrictions in SB5 that limit teacher resources & put no limits on class sizes will ultimately make it even more difficult to fulfill whatever criteria is considered. Again, trying to equate successful "bottom-line" business tactics to motivating children with an endless number of variables is definitely NOT in the best interest of the teaching & learning process..

A lot of comments express frustration about fairness and competency of people making education decisions, such as the following

Subject: Idea

Dear Mr. Kasich,
The idea I have about "paying teachers based on performance," is that the system we have in place now works just fine. As a long-term educator with a masters degree and 3 licenses, why shouldn't I make more money than a teacher right out of college with a bachelor's degree? I have put thousands of dollars and years into getting my education and licenses. I should have tenure and job security. I should have a good paycheck and retirement. I should have good benefits now and in my retirement.

What about paying Charter and Private schools based on how they do on the Ohio Achievement Tests? Right, they don't even have to take it, so I think that would be a good place for YOU to start.

Your thoughts on changing our education system are insulting, and just show how little you know about our education system in general. The State of Ohio has the responsibility to educate our children, and our public education system does it the best. Maybe you need to review your responsibilities as a governor and provide more money to our public education system that is doing well; and would do even better if half of our money wasn't dumped into Private and Chartered schools.

Subject: Ideas for New Pay System

Remove ALL politicans from making ANY of the decisions for pay. Policitians have already made a mockery of the teaching profession and have absolutely shown no respect for educators. Obviously the policitians who voted for this nonsense have never taught one minute otherwise they would understand their are way to many variables to even suggest merit.

If this nonsense continues, ONLY educators should make the decision NOT policitans.

Finally for today, there are one or two comments that are supportive of the governor's efforts, even if their suggestions are, shall we say, "different"

Subject: Innovative Teacher Salary Idea

Hi Governor Kasich!

Depending on what amount each school district spends per pupil, allow the students $1000 to interview the teachers, and "hire" the one they want. Teachers may present the students with their educational portfolio - past student's test scores, how the teacher sets up the class, what the teacher's expectations of the student are, etc. The students then put all their money into the pot for that teacher, and if they reach their goals for the year - AYP, test scores, attendance - the teacher get's their students' bonuses. Much like "The Apprentice" with The Donald - the teacher who performs the best gets the best bonus. The students feel ownership of their teacher, and the teacher only gets beyond their base salary for bringing their class to victory. Also, the best teachers can take more than just 24 students - up to 50 students - thereby increasing their chance for a bonus (but also getting more kids in front of the best teachers) The teachers who are not "hired" by the students, have the smallest class sizes, the least chance at bonuses, and eventually are weeded out.

I think you're awesome! Keep up the good work!

Ohio's teacher evaluation - Flawed from the start?

The Capacity Committee of the state Board of Education yesterday to further discuss development of teacher evlauations, which as the Dispatch reports “should be a tool to inform employment and dismissal decisions (and) opportunities for advancement” and must complete the recommendations by the end of the year.

Education First has been brought in to help develop the evaluation system, but their comments at the meeting are a little troubling

Katie Cour, another consultant from Education First, stressed that the pilot program put together by the state can’t be expected to work flawlessly from the time it is put into place.

“You’ll never have a perfect system at the beginning of implementation,” she said. Cour told the committee members to think of the plan in the same way software developers thought about their products — there would be an OTES 2.0 and 3.0, which might not look anything like the first plan.

The state plan has a basic four-part system for evaluating teachers: goal setting, teacher performance, professionalism and student growth.

In keeping with the focus on student achievement — and a new state law — student growth will be half of a teacher’s evaluation.

We are apparently in such a rush that we're having to make it up as we go along, openly admitting that we are develpoing a flawed system that will be used in part to determine dismissals and RIF's.

We have obtained the documents used and presented at this meeting, you can read them below (we combined 5 documents into one for simplicity of reading, seperated by a blank page)

Combined Teacher Evaluation Docs

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.