[UPDATED: May 30, 6:50 pm: Heffner collaborated with ETS in October, 2010, three months earlier than first reported]

We’ve already posted articles here and here about the Teacher Testing provision that is still hanging on in the budget bill.  A brief update: the current version would require that ALL of the core subject area teachers in the lowest performing 10% of school districts across the state will be required “take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level.”

In Ohio, this means teachers would be retaking (remember these tests are a component of the initial licensure process) the Praxis II tests that are administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS).  You can view everything about the Ohio requirements here.

Using 2009-2010 school year data to calculate the effect of the law results in 351 buildings employing a total of 7,369 teachers, with 6,504, or 85%, teaching in a core subject area.  Each of these 6,504 core teachers will be required to retake the Praxis II tests.

Depending on the subject, grade level, and teaching assignment, these teachers will be required to take between 2 and 10 exams each for a grand total of 23,804 total written examinations.  And at what cost?  ETS charges an annual fee of $50 and exams average $80 each for a grand total of $2,229,520 being paid out by teachers to the N.J.-based company.

And what about the reliability of these assessments?

According to the Ohio Department of Education in January 2011:

The Praxis II tests are not designed to predict performance on the job nor can passing the licensure examination(s) guarantee good teaching. The tests are built to represent knowledge and skills imparted in educator preparation programs in the United States.

And even more damning is the information in the ETS manual: Proper Use of The Praxis Series™ and Related Assessments:

Improper Uses of the Praxis Series and Related Assessments

As noted above, proper assessment use is defined as acceptability of the intended use combined with evidence to support the intended use. Two specific examples of misuse are listed below but are not inclusive of all possible instances of misuse.

  • Employment Selection or Hiring. The Praxis program believes it is inappropriate for a state, district, school, or other local agency to differentiate among candidates who have all met or exceeded the state’s passing score on a Praxis Series test or related assessment for purposes of making a selection or hiring decision. These assessments were designed and intended to be used for credentialing, not for rank-ordering candidates or for making decisions that otherwise presume a predictive relationship between performance on these assessments and performance on the job.

  • Employment-Based Decisions Affecting Fully Licensed and Employed Educators. The Praxis program defines a fully licensed educator as one who has met all state licensure requirements and, therefore, is not practicing under a probationary, emergency, or provisional license. The Praxis program believes it is inappropriate for school districts or other local agencies to use The Praxis Series and related assessment scores for terminating fully licensed educators, determining salaries, promoting or demoting educators, or completing performance appraisals/evaluations.

So with all of this evidence that seems to point to the removal of this provision, why has it made it this far?

Interim Superintendent Stan Heffner, please stand up.

In his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on May 11, Heffner praises the work of Ohio’s progressive practices:

Ohio’s system of teacher licensure is a national leader in connecting teacher practice and certification,and ODE processes 100,000 licensure and endorsement applications every year. Established in 2009,Ohio’s tiered professional licensure system consists of four levels that require a progressive demonstration of professional practice. It incorporates a multi-year residency program for beginning teachers to provide intensive mentoring and support, the first state program of its kind. Licenses have already begun to be issued under the new system.

And then, for some reason, he regresses into support for virtually every new educational provision contained in the bill, succinctly doing so in a single paragraph:

New programs in HB 153 are geared toward attracting, rewarding and promoting good teaching, including the Teacher Incentive Payment Program, performance-based compensation requirements, revisions to the process for alternative licensure, and retesting teachers working in the schools at the bottom 10% of performance index scores.

Right there at the end.  Let’s clean that sentence up to see what he is saying:

New programs in HB 153 are geared toward attracting, rewarding and promoting good teaching, including . . . retesting teachers working in the schools at the bottom 10% of performance index scores.

Say what?  What would cause the Superintendent of Public Schools to choose to ignore statements that clearly refute this component of the bill, including one by his own organization?

Make that two by his own organizations.

Yep, on April 20, ETS released this statement:

April 20, 2011 — Educational Testing Service (ETS) today announced the hiring of two outstanding assessment leaders to guide the company’s work in supporting the consortia of states planning to develop common assessments.

Kit Viator will join ETS the beginning of May and Stan Heffner will join the company at the beginning of August.

Stan Heffner, Interim Superintendent for Ohio, provided testimony to the Senate expressly supporting a provision that would direct over 2.2 million dollars annually to ETS, the company that announced his hiring just three weeks earlier.  He provided opinions that contradict previously published documents from the Ohio Department of Education.  While it is true that he will not actually cast the votes to make this law, he has used his position as Superintendent to represent himself as an expert in this area. Nowhere in his testimony did he declare his existing financial relationship with ETS.

And this is not his only conflict of interest between ODE and ETS.

In the beginning stages of the development of the Common Core curriculum, Heffner clearly stated that Ohio wouldn’t participate.  And yet his latest ODE Profile states that “Heffner is an innovative leader in the national effort to create model curricula and common assessments aligned to the national Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics.”

Heffner has reversed course to the benefit of his future (current) employer and has been collaborating with ETS’s newly formed department since as early as January October, 2010, when this “leader in the national effort” began promoting ETS as his primary source for information about the development of common assessments.  You can see his work in action:

And what would that have to do with his new job at ETS?

As senior executives with ETS’s new K–12 Multistate Assessment Programs group, Viator and Heffner are eminently qualified to guide ETS’s support of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), should ETS be fortunate enough to be awarded contracts by either consortium in a competitive procurement process.

It sure would be helpful in that “competitive procurement process” if ETS had some connections in the State Education Departments.

Stan Heffner should recant his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee and resign his position as Interim Superintendent immediately.  These types of undisclosed relationships lead to biased information and misinformed legislators and we simply cannot allow these violations to go unchecked.  Our Senators and Representatives rely on experts in the field to provide them with purely factual information that is not colored by personal interest.  Stan Heffner betrayed that trust and needs to be called out for doing so.

And they think teachers are wrong for wanting unions to protect their interests?  THIS is why teachers need advocates in the statehouse.