Our post yesterday about Kasich’s budget bill provision for Retesting Teachers generated quite the buzz and a load of questions.  I intentionally did not discuss many of the details in that post knowing that most readers wouldn’t have read much beyond the lists of teachers and schools (I wouldn’t have, either).  So today, I want to offer some good news, bad news, and answer some of the questions asked by readers about this legislation.

First, for those who were shocked and caught off-guard by this information, where have you been?  We first posted about this component of Kasich’s budget back on April 13, when it was even more severe than it is now, requiring the lowest 10% of DISTRICTS, not schools, and affecting nearly 19,000 teachers, three times the number of teachers affected by the final version of the law.

Good News & Bad News

Good News: According to the Ohio Department of Education, teachers might not have to retest until next school year, based on 2011-12 scores.

Bad News: The Ohio Department of Education appears to be flying by the seat of their pants on this (understandably so) and making that date up.

The good news is that a few documents on the ODE website state that the new Performance Index Score process isn’t in effect until this current budget year, so “The ranking system required to determine the lowest 10% of school buildings is due no later than September 1, 2012 so this re-testing provision will be effective beginning with the 2012-13 school year.”  That would mean the teachers wouldn’t be required to take the Praxis exam until after this year, giving schools a one-year reprieve to get out of the lowest 10%.

The bad news is that on ODE’s own job responsibilities chart, the deadline for implementation is Not specified but determination expected in fall of 2012 for 2012-13 school year.”  If this is the case, then we have to question the purpose of the $2 million increase in this year’s budget for “Teacher Certification and Licensure” to the Department of Education.  Do you think the legislature allocated additional funding for this school year only to have ODE put it off until next year? Why would Kasich agree to provide funding, yet delay implementation of one of the key education reform components in his budget?

This excerpt is from Kasich’s original Budget Bill Reforms Book (the 5% immediately became 10% in HB153):

Parroting the alleged importance of this provision has been Kasich’s Director of 21st Century Education and State Superintendent finalist, Bob Sommers:

I can only suspect that they would want “such an important reform measure” implemented as soon as possible, so be cautious in celebrating the apparent delay.  Additionally, delaying it a year will only put off the inevitable and result in a list of over 6,000 teachers being released one year from now.  History, and the specific circumstances of many of these schools, tells us that many of them will remain in the lowest 10%, but NOT as a result of teachers who Kasich claims don’t know their content or basic pedagogy.

 

Q&A

Q: Who pays for these tests?  How do I register?
A: The law says: “No teacher shall be responsible for the cost of taking an examination under this division.”  We do not how registration and payment will take place for these tests, and we suspect that no one else does, either.  The logistical impossibilities in this process include the question of how the 2 Franklin County testing centers will accommodate the 1,111 Franklin County teachers on the list or how the 3 centers around Cleveland will be able to host the 2,120 teachers from Cuyahoga County.  And remember, these numbers are in addition to the business these centers are already handling as they legitimately test new graduates and TFA candidates.  The projected total cost of the teacher testing is over $2 million dollars in the first year.

Q: The list includes teachers who are no longer at the school, will they have to take the tests?
A: In my opinion, this is an area (one of many) in which the law is unclear.  The (abbreviated) language from the Revised Code says:

“Each year, the board of education of each…school…with a building ranked in the lowest ten per cent of all public school buildings according to performance index score…shall require each classroom teacher teaching in a core subject area in such a building to register for and take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level to which the teacher is assigned…may use the results of a teacher’s examinations …in developing and revising professional development plans and in deciding whether or not to continue employing the teacher…”

Q: I’m angry about this, but who, exactly, should I be angry at?
A: There is plenty of blame to go around on this, but we have to consider that this provision originated in John Kasich‘s budget.  This provision passed Republican-led committees and party-line floor votes, with Scott Oelslager the only Republican voting in opposition.  We also believe that (then-interim) State Superintendent Stan Heffner improperly testified in favor of this law and we filed an ethics complaint detailing our claims, though we have no reason to believe that anyone else at the Department of Education would have benefited from this law.  I recommend that you continue to contact your legislators and urge them to have this legislation removed.

Q: I teach grades K-2 and your list says I have to take all of the content tests, but ODE requires only 1 content area test for K-3.  Which is right?
A: You are correct that for K-3 only 1 content and one pedagogy test are required.  The list we posted is based on publicly available data from ODE’s reporting mechanisms.  In that data, teachers are only identified by school level such as Elementary, Middle, High, or Junior High, and not specific grade levels.  As this moves forward, remain skeptical of the testing requirements you are given and question them for accuracy.  One major thing I hoped to achieve by providing this list for teachers was an awareness of the information that is reported about them and the potential implications of inaccuracies.

Q: I started teaching before the Praxis tests started, will I have to take the test?
A: In a strict interpretation and (likely) intent of the law by Kasich, I would think the answer would be yes.  However, an ODE presentation given on August 17 raises some doubt.  The presentation also backs up our concern about the previous question and the accuracy of which test(s) a teacher needs to complete.

If ODE is unsure, how would districts, schools or teachers know?

Q: I thought Charter schools were exempt from most of these things but they are on your list.  Are they included?  How many are affected?
A:  Charter schools ARE included in this section of the law.  While charters comprise only 8.6% of schools statewide, 131 charter schools are in the lowest 10%, or 43.5% of the 349 total schools listed.  18.5% of the teachers listed are from charter schools.

Q: Is this part of Issue 2 that we can vote out in November?
A:  No.  Retesting Teachers is one of many harmful components that Governor Kasich and the Republican General Assembly loaded into the budget bill in order to get them passed into law.  This provision would need to be challenged in other ways, either through successive legislation or a legal challenge.  Contact your Representative and Senator to voice your opposition to this law and request its removal.

 

We’ll continue to keep you updated as the full effects of Kasich’s leadership come to light and negatively impact education in Ohio.  Stay informed and become actively engaged in this process.  We had months to try and get this removed from the bill, yet I have seen many responses from people who have been blindsided by this law.

If we do find we have a one-year reprieve, then let’s not make the same mistake twice – get this law removed.  I’d rather not be posting a new list one year from now.

 

 

One final question:

Q: Can we buy the Praxis t-shirt shown in the post?
A: No.  That was just an attempt at humor to have a bit of a laugh at the absurdity of it all.  We do have some PlunderTees, though….

 

 

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