One of the big “reforms” in Senate Bill 5 is the elimination of existing minimum pay scales for teachers. It also does away with pay increases based on experience. The original version of SB5 replaced experience-based raises with a poorly defined merit-based pay requirement. And the bill that finally passed the Senate had been amended to include a set of “performance measures” that may seem to be slightly less biased but turn out to be just as confusing, possibly harder to interpret and, if passed into law, will be nearly impossible to implement without setting off a landslide of legal action.

I’m going to do a more detailed analysis of the merit/performance-based pay scale in the coming days – but I wanted to share something a little more personal this evening.

I recently received an email from a special ed teacher in Columbus named Daria DeNoia who provided testimony to the House last week about SB5. With extensive teaching experience and multiple degrees (including a Master’s Degree in special education) Daria’s testimony, not surprisingly, covered a lot of ground, provided some important statistics and presented enough interesting ideas to fill multiple blog posts.

After reading through her testimony multiple times I decided I needed to immediately share the best and most moving part of her testimony: a very personal story about her students that raises questions about the proposed merit/performance-based pay system and the lack of specifics/clarity on how it would apply to teachers like herself who teach special education.

With Daria’s permission, I’ve reprinted that part of her testimony below.

Senate Bill 5 replaces the existing predictable salary schedules for teachers and institutes performance pay. I am very confused about how this will impact me, a teacher of students with multiple disabilities. I do not have a classroom with first grade students who follow a district mandated curriculum and take standardized tests. Rather, I have 8 students in Room 1, grades K-4, who have a range of disabilities and disorders including but not limited to: Autism ranging from severe and profound to higher-functioning on the spectrum, Downs’ Syndrome, visual impairments, receptive and expressive speech deficits and delays, mobility concerns, fine-motor deficits, gross motor deficits, other-health-impairments, ADHD, and oppositional defiant disorder.

Each of these students has their own Individualized Education Plan with specific goals and objectives that relate to the child’s individual and highly-specific needs. In any given school day I manage the needs of 8 students and instruct and gather data for the goals and objectives that are found on 8 Individualized Education Plans.

This year one of my students has a goal that includes learning to read 30 sight words, another student has the goal of making eye-contact when spoken to, another student has a goal to reduce the number of times she hits, kicks, or pushes the teacher or peers when unhappy to zero times per school day using behavior management techniques, and another student has the goal of learning to use a spoon to self-feed.

My students will never take standardized tests, as their cognitive and physical disabilities and behavioral needs prevent them from participating in a standardized testing situation, even with accommodations. All of my students qualify for alternate assessment. Alternate assessment does not begin for multiple disability students until grade 3, and most years I do not have any students old enough for this method of assessment.

How, then, will my performance be judged as a teacher?

Who will determine whether I did my job with these students? More importantly, what administrator will realize how much progress a child has made when they read 6 words, when that child finally looks you in the eye if you say hello to them, when that child is only hitting once a day instead of 9 times a day, or when that child learns to use a spoon?

 
  • Jen

    Additionally, how will music, art, physical education, foreign language, elective, or other untested-subject teachers be measured? Not one person who supports this bill can answer that question.

  • progressive dem

    If Kasich was paid based on a merit system, Ohio would no longer have such a big deficit as he would owe us money!!!

  • Annekarima

    Hmmm…I once knew a young man who fell into the catagory of “special” student. He was a genuis and someone didn’t give up on him, especially his mother and his TEACHERS. His genius lay in music. He could play the piano and sing, Oh, could he sing…bring you to tears. Where did he live?
    Ashland, OHIO.

  • Natalie

    I’ve been teaching students with special needs in Columbus for 22 years and have been asking the same question. I have some students who, with their accommodations, have passed the OAA in the past. But they are few and far between. That doesn’t mean my students aren’t learning! Many times I have students that make over a year’s progress in Reading. Many times just moving up one level is a feat in and of itself. For a few students, their gains cannot be shown on an academic scale…..their personal and social growth speak for themselves.

  • Tarfam325

    Again, what’s the hurry on passing this Bill (tongue in cheek)?? Legislators telling educators that their pay should be based on “merit” which is based on the only thing they know, which is testing results, which indicate VIRTUALLY nothing about how students perform in academics or in life…but just based on a few days of testing. I know how we can get rid of testing and merit pay based on testing. During the week of the OAA testing, voters need to DEMAND that every legislator is in his or her seat ON CAMERA, LIVE… and we will provide them with a granola bar and a container of orange juice…and then have them each complete a version of the state mandated test (some would take the third grade version, some the fourth, some the Ohio Graduation Test etc…) and then PUBLISH their results in the newspaper and base their pay on their performance!!! My guess is that MOST of them are NOT smarter than a Fifth grader!!!

  • buckeyekelly

    Has there been any analysis how SB5 could be in direct violation of IDEA?

    Ms. DeNoia brings up salient and valid points in regards to measuring a teacher’s success based on a student’s success. There’s been an email circulating questioning if we were to hold doctor’s salaries based on patient health – any morbidity rates = no pay. Any crime = no pay for police officers. Any fires = no pay for firefighters. Any court challenges of legislation = no pay for legislators. It sounds trite, but teachers do not operate in a vaccuum, and their teaching or lack thereof is not the only variable in a student’s success. Student ability and individual goals need to be part of the equation.

  • Guest

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Disgruntled

    As a fourth grade teacher, this subject has come up more times than I could count. It used to be that our grade level was the only one tested K-5, and don’t think we didn’t hear about it if our scores weren’t the best! Even though we were told “it’s actually a test of everything they’ve learned since kindergarten”, it never came out that way. Fourth grade teachers were the only ones held accountable (remember the “4th Grade Guarantee?).

    Gradually, they started including other grade levels, until everyone from 3rd grade on up was tested. However, there are still many teachers who aren’t affected by test scores.

    If merit pay is instituted what it will do is breed discourse, mistrust, and finger-pointing among staff. What about K-2 teachers who aren’t responsible for state testing? What about the teachers in junior high who teach subjects that aren’t tested on the OAA? Will they be penalized, or will they be allowed to slide by while those of us who do have to deal with the testing bust our butts to make that “Excellent” rating?

    I feel for Ms. DeNoia – I think we are all confused about how this is supposed to work, and no one seems able to give any answers. Our resource teacher does a bang-up job as well, but looking at her test scores every year, you’d think she did nothing. Even students in the ‘regular’ classroom can be fickle. If they come to school hungry, or tired, or they had a bad morning and are in a mood, there’s no way they’re going to feel like sitting for 2 1/2 hours trying to concentrate on taking a test. You wouldn’t want to, either.

    Test scores never tell the true picture, but how do we get legislators to see this?

  • Chuck B

    well put!

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    Kasich doesnt care about special needs people or students
    watch his Town Hall meeting — he addresses this yoing lady close to the end — a gal in a specila bed and has a caretaker– she asked what is in store for her and education for such people — he talked all around the issue and wished her luck on getting to be whatever it was she wanted to do — hes disgusting !!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Yet another success story for the “Jobs” budget

  • Anonymous

    I have taught 4th grade 3rd grade 2nd grade 1st grade and Kindergarten. I have tutored all grades including 5th-6th-7th. The one thing I have learned is that I do not need to test constantly to find out who is learning what they need and who is not. Who is behind Those who are “low” have to be progressed monitored weekly. I mean I can tell you they have not progressed at the rate they need to with out the testing. Come on I work with them daily and keep track of what they could do when we worked in small group or individually. But still I need to “progress monitor” them. Is this what a kindergarten teacher has to do to get merit pay? What about the new license that we now have to seriously think about. One requires you to become what they call a Senior Teacher License which requires you to have
    • Master’s Degree
    • Nine years of teaching experience, of which at least five years are under a professional or permanent license/certificate.
    • Successful completion of the Master Teacher Portfolio..
    The second is the Lead Teacher License:which requires you to:
    • Master’s Degree
    • Nine years of teaching experience, of which at least five years are under a professional or permanent license/certificate.
    • Active National Board Certification OR hold a license with a Lead Teacher endorsement and Master Teacher verification.
    You know if all this goestTFA can teach with only 5 weeks of education training. And the plan is they are cheaper-NOT BETTER!
    And people want to deny us a professionals-professional pay for our work. That just irks my entire sole!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I have taught 4th grade 3rd grade 2nd grade 1st grade and Kindergarten. I have tutored all grades including 5th-6th-7th. The one thing I have learned is that I do not need to test constantly to find out who is learning what they need and who is not. Who is behind Those who are “low” have to be progressed monitored weekly. I mean I can tell you they have not progressed at the rate they need to with out the testing. Come on I work with them daily and keep track of what they could do when we worked in small group or individually. But still I need to “progress monitor” them. Is this what a kindergarten teacher has to do to get merit pay? What about the new license that we now have to seriously think about. One requires you to become what they call a Senior Teacher License which requires you to have
    • Master’s Degree
    • Nine years of teaching experience, of which at least five years are under a professional or permanent license/certificate.
    • Successful completion of the Master Teacher Portfolio..
    The second is the Lead Teacher License:which requires you to:
    • Master’s Degree
    • Nine years of teaching experience, of which at least five years are under a professional or permanent license/certificate.
    • Active National Board Certification OR hold a license with a Lead Teacher endorsement and Master Teacher verification.
    You know if all this goestTFA can teach with only 5 weeks of education training. And the plan is they are cheaper-NOT BETTER!
    And people want to deny us a professionals-professional pay for our work. That just irks my entire sole!!!!!!!!

  • Is there a place we can go to see Daria’s whole testimony. This section was particularly moving and I’d love to see the rest.

  • This is an excellent argument. It needs to be repeated and repeated.

  • Right on the money regarding merit pay and work culture. Even as a skeptic of the system, knowing what it does to collegiality and collaboration, I found myself with the same chip on my shoulder when I was passed over.

  • You know, it all goes back to teacher salaries. How do these “free and competitive” market folks expect to attract talent with paltry wages? I read that in 1970, a new teacher’s salary was commensurate with a new attorney’s salary. Now it’s a fifth of that.
    TFA is a noble idea, but in practice, it is a bargain basement approach to staffing difficult positions and a guarantee for burnout, as such young idealists, thrust into the most challenging jobs with the least remuneration, usually do a career U-turn when their initial placement ends, if not before.

  • You know, it all goes back to teacher salaries. How do these “free and competitive” market folks expect to attract talent with paltry wages? I read that in 1970, a new teacher’s salary was commensurate with a new attorney’s salary. Now it’s a fifth of that.
    TFA is a noble idea, but in practice, it is a bargain basement approach to staffing difficult positions and a guarantee for burnout, as such young idealists, thrust into the most challenging jobs with the least remuneration, usually do a career U-turn when their initial placement ends, if not before.

  • Taraneal1975

    I think it is pretty scary to give the power of my pay to a 16 year old high school student who hates my guts because I give her homework. Giving the power of success to students who refuse to suceed for themselves is a no win situation. Why is this so hard to understand?

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