Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grading Teachers from

Nadia Bachir of WCMH, a local television station in Columbus, produced this short one minute video about teacher evaluations in the state of Ohio. The segment features Scott DiMauro, a social studies teacher from Worthington, and Amy Loring, a local third grade teacher and mother of three. In the video, Scott expresses concern about the requirement to use standardized test scores as 50% of teacher evaluations and stressed the need for local control and flexibility. He also expresses concern about requiring students to take standardized tests every year--not for the purpose of evaluating students, but for the purpose of evaluating teachers. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Republican Senator Calls for Repeal of SB5

Introduction On August 19, 2011 Republican leaders within the state staged a media event to invite the representatives of We Are Ohio to talk about Issue 2 before the August 30 deadline for withdrawing the referendum of Senate Bill 5 from the ballot that the group successfully achieved by collecting over 1.3 million signatures. Not surprisingly, We Are Ohio declined the invitation saying that the Republican leadership needed to repeal Senate Bill 5 first, before discussions could begin. In a report by Karen Kasler for Ohio Public Radio, Ohio Republican Senator Bill Seitz described how this scenario could play out:

“We [Republicans] repeal [Ohio Senate Bill] 5. They [We Are Ohio] drop the referendum. Both sides are now mutually disarmed. They are back to the status quo ante. And then they agree in a cooperative spirit to move forward because most folks realize the current law is flawed.”
-Ohio Republican Senator Bill Seitz

The Republican Senator’s comments do create a scenario in which both sides could give up something as a sign of good faith to begin constructive discussions. However, this will not return both sides to their original positions. The people of Ohio have overwhelming showed support for the public school teachers, police officers and firefighters that serve the people of Ohio. The people of Ohio want a structure in place for delivering high quality public services--not one that is seriously flawed because it was rushed through the legislative process.

The process utilized to pass Senate Bill 5 did not show respect for the teachers, police officers and firefighters that work hard to educate our children, protect our property and protect our lives. The voices of these public services were not heard or respected when Senate Bill 5 was originally rushed through the legislative process.

Education is a very complicated issue and very emotional because it is essential to our children. Legislation related to a state’s educational system needs to be carefully considered with input from current classroom teachers taken into account throughout the entire process. Education in American has too often suffered from unintended consequences and ill-conceived legislative mandates. More than ever people realize the value of education to our economy and national security. Teachers know what works and what does not because they are the ones working with children in the classroom every day. They will also be the ones responsible for complying with legislative mandates, so legislation needs to have buy-in from teachers. America cannot afford poorly constructed education laws passed by politicians that are not based on input from the teachers themselves. Our nation’s children are too important for that.

SB5 Compromise-Political Cartoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

SB5 Will Cut Teachers' Salaries

There is a lot of discussion of Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 in Ohio and a lot of misunderstanding about the implications of the legislation. One of the most debated aspects of the bill is the possible impact it would have on the salaries teachers are paid. Several groups are claiming that no teacher’s salary will be reduced as a result of Ohio Senate Bill 5.

Senate Bill 5 requires that teachers’ salaries be determined by their level of teaching license, highly-qualified designation, “value-added” measures of student performance, performance evaluations and other criteria established their school board. Ohio issues four different teaching licenses: resident educator, professional educator, senior professional educator and lead professional educator. Currently, very few teachers in the state have a senior professional educator or lead professional educator license because they just became available in 2011. To receive a senior professional educator license, teachers must earn a “master teacher” designation. This requires teachers to write a 12-page paper with up to 10 individual pieces of evidence as part of a Master Teacher portfolio. Time spent learning these requirements and complying with them is time that will not be spent on instructing students, planning instruction or evaluating assessments. To receive a lead professional educator license, teachers must receive a “distinguished” rating on their Master Teacher portfolio and earn the Teacher Leader Endorsement; or complete the National Board Certification process. It costs $3000 for a teacher to simply apply for National Board Certification (money which does not stay in the state) and requires at least a year’s worth of work to complete. The Master Teacher portfolio requires participation on a lot of different committees and district initiatives that will limit the opportunities for individuals to complete this program and take their focus off the students in their classroom. If districts are required to pay individuals with these new advanced licenses more, it means that they have to pay individuals who do not have these advanced licenses less. So, a highly effective classroom teacher who has taught for twenty years, earned a master’s degree and whose students perform well on assessments but who does not jump through the hoops to get an advanced license would probably get a pay cut. Also, if no more funding is made available for education and politicians want to pay teachers deemed to be “good” more, they are going to have pay other teachers less. It will be impossible to have less funding for education and at the same time pay teachers more. Furthermore, the state has not yet provided the details of the basis for the teacher evaluations and there are many potential problems that have not been solved. Teachers who are highly effective but who work with low-performing students may also receive a cut because their students do not score well on standardized tests—even though the teacher is effective but unable to overcome all of the factors that influence a child’s performance that are outside of the teacher’s control. This may discourage teachers from working with high need students. So, despite what some people are claiming, Ohio Senate Bill 5 will in fact reduce the salaries paid to many teachers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kasich's Comments on Talking to Public Labor Unions About SB5

This is the radio broadcast from February 26, 2011 when Bill Cunningham of 700 WLW speaks to Governor Kasich about the merit of S.B.5. The Governor says that he was done talking to the public labor unions of Ohio and it was time for action.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Senate Bill 5 And Collective Bargaining in Ohio

This November the people of Ohio will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to give Governor Kasich and the current Republican-controlled legislature the power to limit the bargaining rights of Ohio’s teachers, police officers and firefighters when they vote on Issue 2—the referendum of the infamous Senate Bill 5. Both sides agree that if not repealed by the voters this piece of legislation is a major change in the labor negotiation process for the state of Ohio.

As it stands now, if the local governing body and the teachers (and all other public servants including police officers and firefighters) can not agree to a new contract; the matter goes into a stage known as “fact finding.” Under current law, an objective third-party is brought in to mediate the situation and make a decision in a process known as “binding arbitration”—meaning the decision of the third-party mediator must be followed by both sides. Under Senate Bill 5, however, if a labor negotiation is unresolved the situation again goes into fact finding. Some try to argue that the fact finding process will make all of the relevant information available and result in the optimal decision being made. However, there is not shortage of information available about the U.S. debt crisis and politicians were unable to reach a decision that satisfied anyone. It will be even more difficult for the public to educate themselves about tax policy, public finance and labor markets related to all of the public services provided. The argument that simply making information available will result in optimal decisions being made by politicians does not seem to be supported by recent events. If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement after fact finding, the original governing body gets to make the final decision this time-- without having a third-party mediate. So, in reality the legislative body does not have to engage in good faith negotiate with its workers. The governing body with authority over the workers can just not agree with the offer from teachers, for example, go into fact-finding and choose their own original offer. The law goes further and effectively abolishes the right of public workers to strike. So, although the law does not technically abolish the right of teachers, police officers and firefighters to collectively bargain; in reality the governing body has no need to “bargain” or negotiate with the workers at all.

This reality caused Republican Senator Timothy J. Grendell, who was hoping the bill would be changed, to testify, "If you can't strike and the city council or the legislative authority gets to impose the ultimate terms, you don't have collective bargaining. From my perspective, you might as well forget going through the motions of a negotiations." Because changes were not made to the bill, Senator Grendell, who earned his Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University and his law degree from the University of Virginia, stated that Senate Bill 5 was unconstitutional in his public testimony before the Ohio Senate on March 30, 2011 based on the 1989 Ohio Supreme Court case City of Rocky River v. State Employment Relations Board. This caused Republican Senator Tim Grendell and five other Republican Senators along with all of the Ohio Senate Democrats to vote against Senate Bill 5. So, although Ohio Senate Bill 5 does not technically abolish collective bargaining rights for teachers, in reality it means that governing bodies do not really have to negotiate with their workers because the workers will have no power to bargain. Make no mistake about it—if the voters of Ohio fail to vote no Issue 2, this will be a radical departure from the current process that teachers, police officers and firefighters engage in to negotiate issues related to workplace safety, compensation and even class sizes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Experience Matters

On August 13, 2011 Steven Brill wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal entitled "Super Teachers Alone Can't Save Our Schools." This article makes several important points based on his experience of studying schools in America. One of the people quoted in the article is Dale Levin, the co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Levin says that he was questioned by friends and families 18 years ago why he "would go teach in some ghetto school in Houston." Recently, we seem to be hearing every day that teaching is a cushy job, with high salaries and lots of vacation time. This rhetoric does not seem to match up with the reality of Levin's experiences. Apparently, some people think Yale graduates are too good for to be teachers, but it is a cushy job for "regular" people.  

"Making all those things work is the job," [Levin] continued. "It's exhausting, and it's not exciting, but it's what you have to do."...Yes, teaching is hard work and a lot of it is not glamorous. I would argue that it is just as difficult, if not more difficult, in the public schools than in the charter schools. Maybe people like Levin and Brill should encourage and support public schools teachers as well as their supposed "super teachers" in charter schools instead of denigrating them as inferior and incompetent. But I guess that would not be good for business. Maybe they just have different motives than most teachers...

"I feel overwhelmed, underappreciated and underpaid," a teacher told me one morning at one of the Success Charter Network schools in Harlem. "I work from 7:30 to 5:30 in the building and then go home and work some more," the teacher told me. "I get disrespectful pushback from parents all the time when I try to give their kids consequences. I get feedback from my [supervisors], who demand that I change five or six things by the next day. I think we are doing a great job, so I keep at it. " This is exactly what good teachers around the country do every day--whether they are in charter schools or traditional public schools. It is too bad this woman does not have the support and encouragement from her administration and colleagues to feel like she can continue teaching. Maybe their management practices and philosophy are not sustainable, and instead just burning out teachers every few years. This is supported by the data of many studies showing that charter schools have a high staff turnover rate. 

Brill continues, "They[traditional public school teachers], too, need to respond to the emergency, but they won't do it if all that we give them is a choice between sprinting and sitting down. The lesson that I draw from Ms. Reid's dropping out of the race [quitting] at the Harlem Success school is that the teachers' unions have to be enlisted in the fight for reform. The unions are the organizational link that will enable school improvement to expand beyond the ability of extraordinary people to work extraordinary hours." Brill seems to come to the realization that maybe we should not fire all 3.3 million public teachers, but instead should work with them and the teachers' unions to improve education. What a novel idea. I wonder if any "education reformer" governors will agree.

According to Brill, improving education "means creating work lives and career paths for teachers that will motivate a good portion of them to stay for a while....If there is anything that I have learned from trying to figure out the problems of American public education, it's...that teachers get far better at what they do when they've been doing it for a few years. Working long, hard hours helps." I agree--we should make teaching a career that people want to continue in their whole careers because good teachers get better each year with more experience and lifelong learning. I wonder what policy makers could do to attract high quality people into education and make it so attractive that they want to continue teaching their entire careers...If only we could come up with something...I know, maybe we could pay teachers more each year to give them an incentive to stay and grant them some sort of due process to protect them from the political whims of schools boards and administrators who may not like them for personal reasons. We could call it tenure or something like that. Of course we should have a process where formerly effective teachers who become ineffective teachers would have their employment terminated, but as Brill points out we need to try to find a way to keep good teachers because experience matters. 

Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty?

Dana Goldstein recently wrote an article for The Nation entitled "Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty? Steven Brill Thinks So" that discusses Brill's coverage of education issues in America. The article summarizes some of his past work and provides analysis of his recent book entitled Class Warfare. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"One of Class Warfare’s stars, a charter school assistant principal named Jessica Reid, unexpectedly quits her job at Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy in the middle of the school year; the charter chain’s rigorous demands pushed the 28-year-old Reid, a dedicated and charismatic educator, to the brink of a nervous breakdown and divorce. “This wasn’t a sustainable life, in terms of my health and my marriage,” she tells Brill, who concludes that he agrees (at least in part) with education historian and charter school critic Diane Ravitch. You can’t staff a national public school system of 3.2 million teachers, Ravitch tells Brill, with Ivy Leaguers willing to run themselves ragged for two years. Most of these folks won’t move on to jobs at traditional public schools, as the uncommonly committed Jessica Reid did, but will simply leave the classroom altogether and head to politics, business or law, where they’ll be paid more to do prestigious work, often with shorter, less pressure-filled hours."

Continue Reading:
"Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty? Steven Brill Thinks So"

Friday, August 5, 2011

CNN's Coverage of the Save Our Schools March

From the CNN article:

From Race to the Top to "Waiting for 'Superman,' " Americans have been talking about public education reform -- and arguing about how to do it.

On a sweltering afternoon last week, an estimated 5,000 teachers, parents and students went to Washington to make their case for what to do.

Billed as the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, the protest was a loosely organized grass-roots coalition of teachers and parents. Their goals: More equitable funding for schools, more social service supports for families, more local control over curriculum and an end to high-stakes standardized tests.

Continue Reading the Full Article:
"After school reform march, teachers question what's next"

Monday, August 1, 2011

U.S. Tax Revenue In Context

The following charts show U.S. tax revenues as a percentage of GDP among the member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and historically as a percentage of GDP in the United States. The first chart shows that the United States has the third lowest tax burden of all developing countries. The only nations with a lower tax burden are Mexico and Chile, which provide a significantly lower quality of public goods and services to their citizens than the United States--especially when one considers defense spending. The second chart shows that as a percentage of GDP tax revenues in the United States are lower than at any point in the past 40 years.

Matt Damon Talks to the Local DC News about Teachers