Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Prairie State has captured attention for its recent overhaul of policies governing teacher tenure, transfer, and dismissal. Senate Bill 7 ? which has yet to make its way through the Illinois House of Representatives ? is significant in that it not only passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate (59-0) but also was introduced by a Democrat (Sen. Kimberly Lightford) and garnered the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and the Chicago Teachers Union.

The substance of SB 7 is good news for schools and students ? it ends last in, first out layoffs and allows teachers' seniority to only serve as a ?tie breaker? after performance is considered; gets rid of forced (seniority-based) transfers; and ties dismissal and tenure to meaningful performance reviews. (It also makes the Chicago Teachers Union's ability to strike contingent on 75 percent approval by membership. For more details, read a summary of the bill by the reform group Advance Illinois.) But what's more notable than the bill's details is the broad bipartisan support it earned, the political process behind its passage, and the lessons this bears for Ohio ? where similar teacher personnel changes are being passed but in dramatically different fashion.

Prairie State Politics

For starters, it's worth pointing out that the political situation in Illinois is quite different from that in Ohio, where unions have wholly rejected teacher policy reforms. The Buckeye State passed a bill ending LIFO, streamlining teacher...

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Ohio's recently passed SB5 would make Ohio the first state in the country to mandate performance pay for educators. The law wipes out the step-and-lane salary schedule that has been the basis of teacher pay since the early part of the 20th century and requires districts to adopt new merit-based pay systems. This is potentially a very big deal but the law will likely be challenged by a referendum in November and the courts will surely be drawn into this as school districts attempt to implement the changes. It will likely be months if not years before the law will actually change how teachers are remunerated in the Buckeye State.

It is interesting to go back in time and see how the current step-and-lane system emerged. My friend and long-time Daytonian Nancy Diggs wrote a book in 1997 on the life of Evangeline Lindsley called My Century: An Outspoken Memoir. Lindsley was one of Dayton's truly outstanding 20th century educators and was recognized as one of city's Ten Top Women in 1981. Lindsley also served as president of the Classroom Teachers Association in Dayton, and was elected as only the second member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Education Association in the 1930s. She lived to be over 100.

In My Century Lindsley shared how the single-salary schedule came to be in Dayton during the Great Depression:

It was in the early ???30s that I found out that there was quite a difference in

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Richard Whitmire worries that Republican governors are pushing too far too fast on school reform?and that a big backlash is coming?or might already be here.

My sense is that the school reform movement?roughly defined as those who believe that schools alone can make a dent in the seemingly intractable problems arising from the confluence of race and poverty?is headed into a major beat down.

Why the pessimism? I'm watching Ohio Gov. John Kasich make one of the most boneheaded moves I can imagine, trying to solve his budget problem by trimming back union collective bargaining while simultaneously imposing school reforms such as ushering in better teacher evaluations.

Does he really think teachers horrified at a peel-back of their collective bargaining are going to embrace a new teacher evaluation system? A similar package of twinned reforms is working its way through the Tennessee legislature. In Ohio, teacher union officials vow to place the governor's reforms on the November ballot, putting both budget and education reforms at risk.

Set aside for a moment Whitmire's, well, boneheaded analysis on the policy merits of Kasich's reform plans. (What's the point of introducing a rigorous teacher-evaluation system if poorly performing teachers can never be fired, thanks to provisions in collective-bargaining agreements? And does Whitmire really believe that teachers in Ohio were going to ?embrace? tougher evaluations were it not for Senate Bill 5? Clearly Whitmire hasn't done much of the ?on the ground? reporting he likes to promote?in Ohio at...

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Ohioans are waiting to see if Senate Bill 5, which would greatly reduce public sector collective bargaining in Ohio, can be repealed at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, teachers unions and local school districts are working fast to avoid the legislation's consequences, at least anytime soon.

Changes to state law cannot trump existing collective bargaining agreements. So until a teacher union contract expires, teachers and districts won't have to comply with the bill's provisions. Those include (among other things): prohibiting strikes; removing decisions about leave policies, class sizes, and employee assignment from the scope of collective bargaining; prohibiting salaries from increasing solely due to time on the job; removing seniority as the prime determinant of layoffs; allowing districts to pay no more than 85 percent of employees' health care premiums; and prohibiting districts from paying any portion of employees' pension contribution.

We've seen a rash of one- or two-year contracts agreed to recently as a result of SB 5, including in Columbus, the state's largest district. A few locals have negotiated longer agreements, like Bexley, outside Columbus, where teachers and the district agreed to a four-year contract in quick fashion (a single day!). That agreement ends in July 2015, by which time Ohioans may well have ousted the current governor and Republican House majority and replaced them with Democrats who will have overturned the work of the previous administration.

What's missing from many of these agreements are attempts to deal with...

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Ohio's policy makers are trying to set the conditions for schools and districts to make smart cuts, but the timing for this couldn't be worse. 2011 will be long remembered as the year school funding fell off the ???cliff.??? The Buckeye State has seen $5.5 billion in one-time federal stimulus dollars dry up, the state legislature is in the brutal process of cutting $8 billion from its biennial operating budget, and local school districts have been pummeled by decreasing home and business valuations since 2008. In cities like Cleveland and Dayton, all of this is made worse by unpaid property taxes of 20 percent or more.

Governor Kasich and the Ohio legislature ??? in just over 100 days ??? have been working furiously on a series of changes to law that seek to give school district officials more flexibility in how they manage their districts in time of fiscal scarcity. For example, Ohio lawmakers have passed legislation (SB 5) that would give district officials flexibility to RIF teachers based on performance rather than exclusively on seniority, legislation has been passed that reduces state mandates (HB 30), and the current budget would allow for more innovation and sharing of services across schools, school districts and other government entities (HB153).

This is all for the good, but most of these changes will have little or no impact on how decisions are made in the coming months by districts dealing with their FY2012 budgets. Even reform-minded superintendents wanting to make smart...

NASA's decision to award the four retired space shuttles to museums in Washington, Florida, New York, and California was a blow to Dayton and to the entire Buckeye State. (Dayton was the fifth preferred site and barely lost out.) Dayton, the hometown of Orville and Wilbur Wright and the Wright Patterson Air Force base and air museum, thought it had made a winning case for one of the shuttles. Not only does Dayton have one of the country's great air and space museums, Ohio is also the home of the country's two most famous astronauts ??? John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.?? In the end, none of this mattered.

Ohio's senator Sherrod Brown captured the frustration of many of his fellow Ohioans when he said, ???NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers. NASA was directed to consider regional diversity when determining shuttle locations. Unfortunately, it looks like regional diversity amounts to which coast you are on, or which exit you use on I-95. Even more insulting to taxpayers is that having paid to build the shuttles, they will now be charged to see them at some sites.???

Ohio has been dealt a series of blows in recent years from seeing long-time employers like NCR bolt to Atlanta, to losing two Congressional seats to faster growing states like Texas, to seeing Akron's native son Lebron James bolt Cleveland for the Miami Heat. It seems that the Buckeye State can't compete with the money, energy,...

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Following Diane Ravitch on Twitter is sort of like giving a six-year-old a kazoo on a long car trip. You know that by doing so, there's a very strong probability that it will result in near constant aggravation or annoyance. But you do it anyway, because somewhere deep in your troubled psyche you thrive on provocation.

Being provocative isn't always a bad thing ? and Ravitch does it well. Her latest charge to Twitter followers is pretty pointless, though. She suggests a naming contest for charter school names (#charterschoolnames) and then retweets suggestions from followers that range from mildly funny to offensive, especially to the poor, mostly minority families who flee their traditional school for an alternative and who certainly wouldn't categorize themselves as ?privileged.? Here are some of the worst:

  • Dollars First Academy
  • Privilege Academy
  • Test Purgatory Hi-Tech High
  • Letuslineourpockets High
  • Erasure Secondary
  • Dewey, Cheatum & Howe Academy
  • Results By Attrition Network, Inc
  • Wishful Thinking, Heavy Spending Academy
  • I'm Better Than You Academy
  • Village of Stepford Charter School
  • W.A.S.P. Academy (Why Ask Stupid People)
  • TFA Tours

Wow. This ridiculous Twitter anti-charter rant is more like giving the child a drum set. Ohio Gadfly suggests other charter school names that are probably more accurate, at least from the perspective of the families and kids who utilize such options, like ?Kids who would otherwise not have a shot in hell because their current school is failing ACADEMY.?

Flypaper readers, please weigh in with other suggestions...

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By now it should be no surprise to anyone that Ohio is the midst of a financial crisis, and that schools will undoubtedly feel the brunt of this. School districts around the state must cope with the end of federal stimulus money as well as tangible personal-property tax replacement payments to schools. With hearings about the budget (HB153) underway, Terry testified before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education last week to offer support for certain reform provisions, while also urging the Ohio Legislature to think bigger and bolder in some areas.

Terry offered support for:

  • The creation of Innovation Schools/ Zones, which would allow schools to achieve cost savings and greater efficiencies by allowing them to seek waivers from some state laws.
  • The expansion of school choice. He praised the fact this budget would hold charter schools and their sponsors more accountable for their performance, but cautions that many details still need to be worked out and refined.
  • The expansion of the EdChoice scholarship. He offered support for the proposed expansion of the voucher program, but called for the academic performance of private schools to be tracked and evaluated. As it currently stands documentation of academic performance of private schools is not required. Schools that receive public funding should be sanctioned to the same criteria as public school and use academic data to determine the success or failure of their academics.
  • Capitalizing on effective teachers, what Terry argues are the most valuable
  • ...
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Effective teachers are the most valuable education asset that Ohio (or any state) has. Statistics don't lie when it comes to their impact on children's learning. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who recently testified before a joint hearing of the Ohio House and Senate education committees, reports that "having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background." Similarly, a weak teacher can blight a child's prospects.

Given how powerfully teachers can alter students' life trajectories, it is not only prudent but imperative to push reforms that enable education leaders to distinguish effective teachers from ineffective ones. With a fair and rigorous system that measures gradations of teacher effectiveness - not just binary ratings such as "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory" - school systems can reward their ablest instructors and put them in the classrooms where they are most needed, target support to teachers who need it and weed out those who are not a good fit for the profession. For Ohio, where low-income and minority children reach proficiency at far lower rates than their wealthier peers, the stakes are enormous.

But the evaluation system isn't working nearly as well as it needs to. As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has noted: "Everyone agrees that teacher evaluation is broken. Ninety-nine percent of teachers are rated satisfactory and most evaluations ignore the most important measure of a teacher's success - which is how much their students have learned."

In Ohio, districts pay...

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Ohio is in the midst of its biennial budget debate and there has been much angst and ink spilled about a proposal in the budget bill (HB 153) to create a ???parent trigger??? for the state's truly woeful schools. The proposal has triggered front page new stories, strongly worded editorials against the idea, and public testimony in House hearings on the budget dismissing the idea as another assault on public schools.

The bill would allow parents to petition a school district to force reforms in a school that, for at least three consecutive years, has been ranked in the lowest 5 percent of all district-operated schools statewide based on its performance index score (which is a measure of student achievement across all grades and subjects). Parents would be allowed to file a petition requesting the district to do one of the following:

  1. Reopen the failing school as a community school,
  2. Replace at least 70 percent of the school's personnel,
  3. Contract with another school district or a nonprofit or for-profit entity with a record of effectiveness to operate the school,
  4. Turn operation of the school over to the state Department of Education, or
  5. Any other restructuring that makes fundamental reforms in the school's staffing or governance.

This is strong medicine for sure, and for truly atrocious schools necessary. Now, the part of the story that has been missed by almost everyone is how few schools this law would actually impact. The bar for triggering...

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