Ohio is building comprehensive evaluation and compensation plans that aim to identify and well-compensate great teachers based on multiple measures of their student achievement and their individual practice.  Ours is not a bonus plan.”  This is how the Ohio Department of Education explains the difference between the recently released study of the failed teacher merit pay system in New York and the one they are helping Governor Kasich create from scratch.

Except it’s not the Ohio Department of Education, it’s the Governor’s office pretending to be the Ohio Department of Education by using their website.

Quick update: Senate Bill 5 was signed by Governor Kasich containing teacher merit-pay requirements (then later forgets); Kasich then introduces budget bill that includes teacher merit-pay; budget bill passes General Assembly; Kasich signs it into law (June 30).

Meanwhile, in April, after signing the Teach for America bill (“a landmark day for Ohio education“), Kasich decided to ask for teachers to contact his office with feedback:

I want to make sure that teachers across the state know that if they want to participate in establishing this criteria, we want to invite them to be a part of this process.  They can contact the governor’s office. They can start there, and send an email. I look forward to it. And even if there are several hundred that want to participate, we’ll sit them down and walk them through this.

Then, in May, two months after proposing the aforementioned budget including teacher merit-pay (with specific details, no less), Governor Kasich apparently determines that his budget proposal was off target and he tweets a request for input (because so many public school teachers are following him on Twitter).

At the link, you’ll find the following: “Have an idea? Share it with Governor Kasich by visiting http://governor.ohio.gov/Teachers”  In the picture, that’s Governor Kasich on the left, sitting next to school reform “expert” Michelle Rhee.

More recently, on July 13, the Columbus Dispatch reported on a meeting at Ashland University where the Governor dropped in.

It took a 30-minute meeting with a handful of teachers from across the state yesterday for Gov. John Kasich to decide who should construct a merit-pay system for Ohio schools. And it’s not him. “I’ve become convinced that when it comes to actually designing this program, the governor ought to stay out of it,” Kasich said after the meeting at Ashland University. “I’d be the most comfortable if the teachers themselves could put together what they think is a fair process.”

QUOTE:  “The governor ought to stay out of it.”

He received more than 1,200 responses, and his administration quietly constructed a steering committee of more than a dozen teachers from across Ohio to help gather information.  Additionally, the administration has held seven regional meetings with groups of teachers who responded to Kasich’s request.

Seven regional meetings?  A steering committee?  How did we miss that?  How did every media outlet in the State miss that?

Simple, it’s because Kasich is not staying out of it and the administration simply recruited teachers they knew from the list of Teachers for Kasich members (TfK quote: “Just got another piece of OEA hate mail that unfairly bashes John Kasich. I don’t appreciate the union spending my dues money in this way.“).  This process clearly continues the administration’s preferred practice of cronyism and confirms the skepticism expressed over his call for input. By using this practice, Kasich can ensure that his teacher merit-pay proposals, despite his feigned ignorance and hands-off approach, will be implemented exactly as he drew them up.

Fortunately, the Ohio’s Open Meetings Laws apply to this committee, so we should be able to hold them accountable and find out precisely what these groups of teachers are saying about merit-pay:

The Ohio Open Meetings Act requires public bodies in Ohio to conduct all official business in open meetings that the public may attend and observe. Public bodies must provide advance notice to the public indicating when and where each meeting will take place, and in the case of special meetings, the specific topics that will be discussed. Full and accurate minutes of the meetings must be taken and made available to the public, except in the case of permissible closed-door sessions.

The Ohio Open Meetings Act defines a “public body” as:
a. Any board, commission, committee, council, or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution, or authority, and any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision-making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution;

Now, where to find those minutes….Governor, a little help, please?

Glad to know you’re so involved!  So, we’ll just go to teachers.ohio.gov and find the meeting schedule and minutes . . .

Umm, Governor, that link redirected us to a hidden Ohio Department of Education webpage about teacher evaluations.  Did you give us the wrong link?

Thank you, Governor Kasich’s Communication Department, but that is only the same Twitter account that is on the hidden Ohio Department of Education webpage.  In fact, that’s the only direct form of contact on that page, and I’ve received no response when I tweeted a question about the meeting schedule.  Wait a minute, the first meeting happened back on June 22?  Where was THAT date published?  Or June 24, or July 11, or July 12?  There are only 5 meetings described on the page, yet the Dispatch article reports seven have occurred, so when and where were the other two?

Even when you directly connect to the Governor’s Teacher Evaluation homepage, you’d better save the link.  That hidden page is not connected to any of the series of complex menus, nor can you find it by doing the logical step of entering “Teacher Evaluation Home Page” in the search box.  Comically, that search will take you to the Ohio Department of Education’s current Ohio Teacher Evaluation System which has been in development since 2009 by the Ohio Educator Standards Board.  This thoroughly-researched model was presented to the State Board of Education just last week.  Awkward . . .

Don’t waste your time on the page, though, you won’t find anything of real substance.

You will find:

  • A video featuring teachers promoting the IMPACT program in Washington D.C.
  • A link to a Twitter account (if you don’t tweet, you’re out of luck)
  • A link to a feedback page on the Governor’s website
  • Multiple links to education reform experts Bill and Melinda Gates

You won’t find anything required by the Open Meetings Act:

  • A schedule of the meetings that have been held
  • A schedule of upcoming meetings
  • Names of the steering committee members
  • Detailed meeting minutes
  • Names of meeting facilitators
  • Names of meeting participants
  • An explanation of who is behind the final decisions (all signs lead back to Kasich)

How disappointing.  Just when we think the Governor has seen the light and wants to involve outsiders in the process, he secretly appoints like-thinking members of his campaign to a secret steering committee that conducts secret meetings with invitation-only participants, and blatantly disregards Ohio’s Open Meetings Laws that are intended to “foster the spirit of open government.”

To provide feedback about the Governor’s feigned interest in teacher merit pay, please call the Performance-based Evaluation Office at 614-644-6777.  This will connect you directly to the office coordinating this project.  We can’t seem to get copies of the meeting schedule or minutes, but maybe you’ll have better luck.