On September 18, we posted a letter that we sent to the Governor’s office, specifically Barb Mattei-Smith, requesting that she “cease the spreading of misinformation regarding the Teacher Retesting provision of HB153, especially your repeated statements that a similar program has had a measurable impact in the state of Massachusetts.”
Today, two weeks later, we got a response from Robert Sommers, the Director of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education. He politely disagreed with the information we provided:
I appreciate your careful analysis of information being shared from our office. We always strive to be accurate about our communications and your diligence in monitoring our efforts contributes to our goal.
Unfortunately, you are incorrect in your observations of Massachusetts laws. Please note the right afforded in Massachusett [sic] to retest teachers in chronically underperforming schools. Details can be accessed at the following site. See specifically the references to retesting in level 4 and 5 schools.Also, I’m unaware of anyone specifically suggesting which assessments will be used to do the retesting. Your reference to Praxis is at least pre-mature. The selection of these assessments is the responsibility of the Ohio Department of Education. I’m sure they will be careful to select an appropriate assessment.Take care,Robert D. Sommers, PhD
Director, Office of 21st Century Education
Ohio Governor’s Office
The email arrived at 6:52 pm. At 8:13 pm, I fired off my reply:
Your continued effort at trying to deceive and misinform is reprehensible.
First, page 7 of the Governor’s Reforms Book that you helped craft specifically states:
Test Teachers in Poor-Performing Schools
What will change
Teachers employed in a school identified in the bottom five percent of the state‘s schools on the basis of student results will be required to take licensure tests.
Why this change is important
Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results. Teachers were tested on the content they were assigned to teach.
You craftily call me incorrect while confirming that Massachusetts merely “affords the right” to test teachers and providing the link that supports this. The regulation that you cite explains that the requirement is only for Mathematics and that it is purely at the discretion of the superintendent or school operator:
Requirement of taking a mathematics content assessment The superintendent or the school’s receiver, if any, may require all mathematics teachers at a Level 4 school to take a mathematics content assessment approved by the Department. The commissioner or the school’s receiver, if any, may require all mathematics teachers at a Level 5 school to take a mathematics content assessment approved by the Department.
Further, this regulation you cite has exceptions that would clearly exempt the overwhelming majority of Ohio’s teachers:
(a) A mathematics teacher who would otherwise be required to take a mathematics content assessment pursuant to 603 CMR 2.07(1) shall not be required to take it if the teacher:
- has passed the Elementary Mathematics, Middle School Mathematics, or Mathematics test of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure or has passed or been deemed under 603 CMR 7.14(14)(g) to have passed the Mathematics subtest of the General Curriculum test of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure; and
- is appropriately licensed for the mathematics the teacher is teaching.
Exception #1 would exempt any teacher who obtained their license in Ohio, and exception #2 would exempt any licensed math teacher. Of course, since this is only for mathematics, any other teacher would obviously be exempt from retaking the licensure exam.
You neglect to point out the fact that this provision only applies to Level 4 and Level 5 schools in Massachusetts, a designation that requires the consideration of “school MCAS performance over a four-year period.” The Ohio law affects teachers in the very next year. And while Massachusetts has the restriction that “Not more than 4% of the total number of public schools may be in Levels 4 and 5, taken together, at any given time,” the Ohio law includes the lowest 10% of schools.
Also, while you and the Governor claim that “ Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results,” the Massachusetts law that includes this provision didn’t go into effect until January 19, 2010, meaning that data to support a significant increase in student results is not yet available. If you believe you have such data to support the claims as you made in the Reforms Book, please send them over and I will share them widely.
Finally, you claim my reference to Praxis is “at least pre-mature” which makes me wonder if you are trying to exert your influence on the Ohio Department of Education to change the licensure exams. House Bill 153 clearly states: “…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 under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code.”
The Ohio Department of Education asserts that these licensure tests are currently administered by Praxis right on their website on a form updated on 7/19/2011.
What tests are required?
- Praxis I tests are required by some Ohio colleges and universities as program entry requirements. The institutions set their own test qualifying scores for Praxis I tests. They are not a licensure requirement.
- Praxis II tests consist of Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) and Subject Assessments (e.g., content tests). Refer to the following chart for Praxis II requirements for each area of licensure.
Are you implying that the selection of a new assessment for licensure will occur this year? Would such a change mean more tests for teachers meaning that the Teacher Retesting law will require more tests and even more state funding or is it your understanding that the teacher licensure requirements will be lessened, decreasing the high standard for teachers that we currently have in Ohio.
Please let me know when you can answer any of these questions and when you have the report on Massachusetts I requested above. Until you do, my request that you and Ms. Mattei-Smith “cease the spreading of misinformation regarding the Teacher Retesting provision of HB153” stands.
If you would like to contact Dr. Sommers, you can email him at Robert.Sommers@governor.ohio.gov
And, as always, I am being sincere.