With August right around the corner and the Ohio Secretary of State assigning an issue number (#2) to the Senate Bill 5 Referendum, it’s time to start dissecting the grossly flawed bill that brought millions of Ohioans together in opposition this year.  Much of the Senate Bill 5 language was rewritten into HB153 (budget bill) when it became apparent that the referendum effort would succeed, but since so many variations of each bill have come and gone in the committees, it’s important to revisit the appalling language that John Kasich gleefully signed into law on March 31 (despite stating “I don’t anticipate some big deal, because this is hard for people. … I want to be respectful of other people’s feelings, their thoughts and their emotions.”)

To begin, we’ll take a look at the five performance measures in the bill that define 100% of the salary for a teacher.

Section 3306.01, (A) (3), states Each city, exempted village, local, and joint vocational school district shall pay teachers’ salaries based upon performance as required under section 3317.13 of the Revised Code.

Section 3317.13 first provides the definition of a teacher, reiterates the requirement of a performance-based salary (B), and then item (C) unambiguously defines the required performance measures a school board is to use:

(B) Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon performance as described in this section.

(C) For purposes of this section, a board shall measure a teacher’s performance by considering all of the following:

(1) The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher holds;

(2) Whether the teacher is a “highly qualified teacher” as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code;

(3) The value-added measure the board uses to determine the performance of the students assigned to the teacher’s classroom;

(4) The results of the teacher’s performance evaluations conducted under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code or any peer review program created by an agreement entered into by a board of education and representatives of teachers employed by that board;

(5) Any other criteria established by the board.

For starters, please note that (C) states “shall measure a teacher’s performance by considering all of the following.” Not some;  not those that apply; but all.

THE BREAKDOWN

Performance measure number one: The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher holds;”

As of August, 2011, the vast majority of full-time teachers will hold one of seven different licenses or certificates: a four-year Resident Educator license, an Alternative Resident Educator license, a five-year Professional license, a five-year Senior Professional Educator license, a five-year Lead Professional Educator license, an eight-year Professional certificate, or a Permanent certificate.  The progression of licenses under updated state law includes limitations that set minimum years of experience. As a result, the inclusion of licensure as a performance measure implicitly places a value on years of experience. A teacher cannot obtain a professional license with fewer than four years of experience (regardless of performance).  A teacher cannot obtain either the Senior Professional or Lead Professional licenses with fewer than 9 years of experience (regardless of performance or credentials).  A teacher holding an 8-year certificate (last issued in 2006) will have at least 17 years of experience, while a teacher who holds a permanent certificate (last issued in 2003) will have at least 20 years of experience.  Therefore, by applying varying values to these licenses, the bill is assigning a value on experience, a specific provision the bill was supposedly intended to remove.

Many teachers hold multiple licenses, but are typically (and technically) only teaching under one at a time (for example, a high school counselor who also has an English license). There are many more iterations that make licensure an extremely complex problem to address.  I spoke with a principal a few weeks ago who was renewing NINE unique licenses.  How will educators who hold multiple licenses be measured if their licenses are assigned different values?  Does this sound like something your local school board is equipped to design and implement?

Other licensure components address experience in their own way.  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards requires a minimum of three years of teaching experience before one can apply for National Board Certification, and to become licensed as a principal in the state of Ohio, one must hold a valid teaching license and have completed three years of teaching experience under that license.  State and federal systems already in place reinforce the idea that experience matters.

 

Performance measure number two: “Whether the teacher is a ‘highly qualified teacher’ as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code;”

If I didn’t know better, I would think this sounded like a reasonable measure.  Unfortunately, it’s not what it appears to be.  Being “highly qualified” has an established definition at the federal level.  Teachers are required to report their Highly Qualified Teacher status for the courses they teach.  To clarify this point, only one teacher can be credited for teaching a class.  Immediately, this excludes many educators. In Columbus, nurses, social workers, counselors, resource teachers, some intervention and gifted specialists, and other assorted coordinators do not qualify for reporting purposes. As a result, many of these educators would be unable to meet ALL of the performance requirements. More importantly, consider this text from the Ohio Department of Education’s Highly Qualified Teacher Toolkit: “Newly hired and veteran teachers must satisfy the definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT). Veteran teachers must have been [highly qualified] by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. Federal regulations require that new and newly hired teachers be highly qualified at the time of hire.”   Again, it is against FEDERAL REGULATIONS to employ teachers that are not highly qualified. This performance measure is irrelevant. 

 

Performance measure number three: “The value-added measure the board uses to determine the performance of the students assigned to the teacher’s classroom.”

I want to state up front that I have few qualms with value-added data as an informational tool for school improvement efforts.  However, value-added measures should not be recommended for use in the evaluation of teacher performance.  In Ohio’s current value-added system, only about 30% of all educators receive value-added data. Three zero – thirty percent.  And this data reports gains at the district, school, and grade levels only, not at the individual teacher classroom level.  This past year, Ohiowas forced to basically revamp the entire value-added reporting system because the results over the past several years were highly skewed and inaccurate.  We cannot be assured that this system will accurately and fairly provide results for the educators who would be held accountable.  Even if Ohio tried to expand standardized testing to all grades and subjects, we would still be excluding all non-core educators already mentioned in the Highly Qualified Teacher information. I sincerely doubt that the creation of assessments for all grades and subjects is in the state budget for implementation this year, especially in light of the fact that Ohio will be adopting all new tests when we switch to the Common Core standards in Autumn 2014.  This upcoming change would cause any performance-based salary measures implemented now to be completely revised just three years down the road.

For supporting research, I recommend a report by the Economic Policy Institute released in 2010 titled Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.

I’d prefer to offer a different look at why the use of standardized testing does not make sense.  My oldest son has always struggled in school.  He was diagnosed with dyslexia after fifth grade and, with the help of dedicated teachers, he is now a senior and is also in our local career center’s Fire Service Training program with the goal of becoming a firefighter.  Last summer, he passed the Science Ohio Graduation Test on his second attempt, completing his OGT requirements.  With that outcome, which single teacher receives credit for their performance in his success on the OGT?  At that point in his educational career, fourteen different teachers had taught him science, including some co-teaching situations and one educator who retired midyear.  He could not have read the test without his reading teachers and tutors, nor thought critically and creatively without the influence of all of his math teachers and art teachers.

Trying to assign a value to his performance at a single point in time to any single adult does a disservice to every educator who has ever had the opportunity to work with my son.

 

Performance measure number four: “The results of the teacher’s performance evaluations conducted under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code

Dig deeper into this item and you’ll find that this measure will require a variety of different things that merit an entire post.  Essentially, this contains the identical language that was later written into the budget bill: “The framework shall require at least fifty per cent of each evaluation to be based on measures of student academic growth specified by the department of education.”

In addition, a teacher’s evaluation will include:

(1) Quality of instructional practice, which may be determined by announced and unannounced classroom observations and examinations of samples of work, such as lesson plans or assessments designed by the teacher;

(2) Communication and professionalism, including how well the teacher interacts with students, parents, other school employees, and members of the community;

(3) Parent and student satisfaction, which may be measured by surveys, questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback.

Let’s see if I can summarize:

  • The Ohio Department of Education will have to create measures out of thin air in order to provide a method of measuring student academic growth for the approximately 70% of educators who do not currently teach in a tested area.
  • For those in the heavily tested areas of Reading and Math, not only do their scores count for 50% of their evaluation and subsequently a significant portion of this performance measure, but they actually count double since these EXACT SAME TEST RESULTS comprise 100% of the results of performance measure three.
  • Extroverted teachers will be rewarded over introverted teachers.
  • Parents and students will be important in judging a teacher’s performance, so we can expect student grade-point-averages to rise across the state.
  • Teacher salaries will be determined by how the local school board integrates all of these measures into a fair and balanced performance-based matrix.

 

And performance measure number five: Any Other Criteria Established by the Board.”

As long as this means a salary based on education and experience, I think it’s a great idea. Otherwise, this opens the door for any unproven fad to become a significant factor in determining salary. This could also open the door for favoritism, nepotism, and any other bad -ism. With this fifth measure as a part of the bill, there is by default no reason for 1-4 to be included.  When I see a catch-all item like this thrown in at the end of a list, it makes me question how much time was spent creating it.

 

So if we take these out and we simply revert to a generic “merit” as the sole basis, then we’re left with an even greater mess.  Merit is such a nebulous term.  It would place an enormous burden on our local governments as they work to craft pay scales out of thin air.  Our reality is that education and experience matter and instead of attacking that idea, we should be embracing it and using it to improve, and we need to start by retaining salary schedules that have worked for decades and that reward education and experience.

Talk to a member of your local Fire Department.  Ask a firefighter if he or she was better in year one or in year fifteen.  Who do you want responding to your mom when she has to call 911? Experience matters.

Ask one of our valued Ohio highway patrol officers protecting the statehouse and stopping DUI suspects if they were better prepared before or after the academy.  Education matters.

Do you think anyone could just hop on a school bus, pick up 30 energetic children, and navigate through the hordes of rush hour drivers racing to work?  I find it hard to believe, yet it happens over and over again, every single day.  But not without education and experience.  Because education and experience matter.

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