Promises, promises

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently reviewed the 16 Race to the Top finalist states' ???great teachers and leaders??? application sections. NCTQ rightly pointed out one significant reform Ohio has going for it in this area ??? last summer the governor and legislature moved teacher tenure decisions until after a teacher's seventh year on the job (instead of after the third).

But in reading the rest of NCTQ's Ohio blurb, I can't help but notice how many verbs are in the future tense. The Buckeye State's ???yellow??? rating from NCTQ (???proceed with caution???/stoplight metaphor) seems too generous unless it's a flashing yellow and you're turning right onto a crowded 70 mph highway while driving a Smart Car.

NCTQ reports (italics and parenthetical comment mine):

The state adopted a new licensure system in 2009, which it promises will be calibrated with its performance-based evaluation system (which doesn't exist yet). Ohio??? also plans to revamp its guidelines to districts regarding how tenure decisions are made. Ohio also says it intends its new four-step licensing system to provide the foundation for new teacher compensation statewide.

And the kicker, the optional clause:

Ohio proposes that participating districts can ???opt to pursue??? compensation reform based on teacher effectiveness measures.

Andy has already done some great analyses of states' Race to the Top applications and has expressed frustration over several forward-looking promises and plans to create planning commissions ??? Louisiana's intention to create a blue ribbon commission around performance pay; Kentucky's ???maddeningly indecipherable teacher section,??? which leaves nearly all the details of teacher evaluation up in the air; and even Massachusetts' proposal for a task force to figure out how to measure teacher effectiveness. And Rick Hess pulls out one of Ohio's more embarrassing application sentences:

Ohio promises to, "Facilitate local Reform Working Group dialog sessions across the state to engage all local stakeholders in meaningful local dialog to engender deeper understanding of education reform in Ohio" (page 191).

With Ohio and so many other states weighed down by pages and pages of application promises, who from the USDOE plans to hold their feet to the fire should they win the funding? What happens if they scrap their plans to create task forces to draft suggestions for reforms that are optional to begin with? Much of Ohio's ???great teachers and leaders??? section sounds like nothing more than a promise ring.

--Jamie Davies O'Leary

(Photo courtesy of at The Truth About... at Flickr.com)

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