The Governor’s education director lied to me.  No big deal, right?  Well, before he lied to me, he lied to the Senate Finance Committee, but that was after he lied to the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, and after he lied to a roomful of state superintendents, and after he lied to all of Ohio in the FY2012-13 budget.  

Here’s the details of the lie and why you should be concerned.

During testimony on the voluminous House Bill 153, Ohio’s budget bill, I can only find evidence that three people specifically mentioned the Governor’s provision to retest teachers in Ohio’s lowest performing schools:

  • Dr. Robert Sommers, Director, Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education
  • Stan W. Heffner, Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Me

Remember, Ohio’s House Bill 153 was the biennial budget bill that included a full slate of educational reform efforts.  This particular component would require all teachers in “core subject areas” in the lowest 10% of schools to retake Ohio’s teacher licensure exams.  As our regular readers know, I opposed this provision in my testimony on the basis that it is a misuse of the tests and is not supported by the claims made in the Governor’s budget proposal.  I have been vehemently opposed since the bill’s inception.

Heffner supported the provision, for which I filed a formal complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission over his pending employment with the company that currently provides the teacher licensure exams required by the law.

As for Sommers, the Governor’s education expert?  He can be credited with creating the provision in the first place, and he specifically promoted the provision, even reiterating the original budget bill’s claim that this practice has been working in Massachusetts.

Sommers lied.

Sommers first lied in the original budget (page 7 of the Reforms Book):

Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results. Teachers were tested on the content they were assigned to teach.

Sommers then lied to an audience of education professionals on March 21 (approx. minute 45), when he said:

Massachusetts has been doing this for years.  They attribute a lot of their progress based on this.

Sommers lied again the next day to the House Finance and Appropriations Committee:

We are also going to test teachers in chronically failing schools. This process has been very successful for Massechuetts [sic] and is identified as a major factor in their educational system improvements.

When the bill moved to the Senate Finance Committee, Sommers took the opportunity to again lie to legislators who were relying on him for expert guidance:

We are also going to test teachers in chronically failing schools.  This process has been very successful for Massachusetts and is identified as a major factor in their educational system improvements.

I first questioned the link to Massachusetts back on April 20, and have been writing letters and occasional posts since that time.  I was unable to find any documentation on the Massachusetts Department of Education website even back then, curious for a practice that they have “been doing for years” and which is “identified as a major factor in their educational system improvements” according to Sommers.

Even more curious was the recent reply I received from Dr. Sommers in response to an email I sent a few weeks ago.  In that email exchange that I posted on October 1, Sommers tried to defend his position and directed me to the apparent foundation of Ohio’s teacher retesting law:

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.

Thus his most recent lie about teacher restesting – to me.

Some points about the information available at this link could be debated to be connected, but are expressly less restrictive or punitive than the new Ohio law.

Sommers directed me to a regulation that applies 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 has exceptions that would exempt the overwhelming majority of Ohio’s teachers:

(3) Exceptions

(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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

This regulation also 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.

That completely encompasses the implementation of the Massachusetts regulations, and while the two are very dissimilar, I’d be hard-pressed to call Sommers a liar about these comparisons.

But remember that Sommers claimed that “Massachusetts has been doing this for years.  They attribute a lot of their progress based on this.

And that, my friends, is a lie.  A lie he began telling in March 2011, and has continued to tell to Ohio’s legislators, reporters and taxpayers throughout Ohio.

In Massachusetts, the new law that created Level 4 and Level 5 schools (part of Massachusetts’ school improvement process) was not effective until January 19, 2010, only 15 months before Ohio’s budget bill was first crafted.  And at this point, we have evidence that the parameters of the law were still being created.  From page 7 of the State Board of Education minutes of January 26, 2010:

Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr said the Department is trying to move forward with draft criteria to identify Level 4 schools, and that federal Title I-G dollars would support Level 4 schools. Deputy Commissioner Baehr said the new legislation and regulations equate underperforming with Level 4. The deputy commissioner said this year performance would be used to identify the schools, while next year improvement will also be a factor.

The first list of Level 4 schools were identified in March 2010, in order to begin preparations for the beginning of their turnaround work in the 2010-2011 school year.

Follow that?  The 2010-2011 school year; the year ending in June 2011, 3 months after Sommers began his parade of deceit claiming the this provision is touted by Massachusetts.  In fact, if you scan ALL of the other documentation being used in this BRAND NEW process to help turnaround schools in Massachusetts, you will find no evidence of the regulation Sommers cites as evidence of Ohio’s need to implement this law.

I know what you’re thinking —  perhaps they don’t update their website regularly, right?

I wondered that, too, so I called the Massachusetts Department of Education.  Something that “they attribute a lot of their progress” to must be readily available somewhere, so I called and spoke with Ken Klau, an employee in the Massachusetts Department of Education’s Center for Targeted Assistance about the provision referenced by Dr. Sommers in his ongoing promotion of teacher retesting.  Mr. Klau was completely unaware of the obscure regulation referenced by Sommers or any other teacher retesting practice and he confirmed that the entire process of Level 4 and 5 schools had just begun in 2010, meaning that no Level 5 schools would exist for 3-4 more years.

Being relatively untrusting of the Department, I needed to talk to someone who would definitively know if any teachers in the state had been required to retake licensure tests.  I called and spoke to the president of the Boston Teachers Union, representing over 5,500 educators.  President Richard Stutman unequivocally confirmed that no teacher retesting provision or practice exists in Massachusetts.  And President Stutman would be one to know, considering that Boston is specifically affected by having 12 Level 4 schools in their school district.

Again, Dr. Robert Sommers has lied over and over and over and over and over again.  Every time Sommers has claimed that it has been working in Massachusetts, he has lied.  The Massachusetts practice that Sommers claims proves that Ohio needs teacher retesting simply DOES NOT EXIST.

What would cause Dr. Sommers to fabricate this provision, insert it into the Ohio budget, and then continue to lie about it time and time again?  Is it merely a power trip?

And what will it take to convince anyone in the legislature to care?

Is there no one left with any integrity that will stand up and repeal this law?


  • Conegliosu

    Greg there in no one left in the legislator that cares about education.  

  • Bryan Winbush

    It’s like they have no morals or values what so ever, and they call themselves Christians!  How do you lie and deceive in the name of Jesus?  There’s no such thing as a Republican-Christian, it’s and oxy-moron! 

  • Dmoore2222

    Sommer’s is one who insists that education is a “business” and should be run like one (You know, like Lehmand Bros. GM, Chrysler, ENRON, name any bank, that operate as Kasich would say, “at the speed of business) where lying and manipulation are commonplace. So misrepresenting something is only good business practice if it gets you what you want.

    Outstanding research and reporting, Greg. Whether or not it will sway the den of liars we call the Ohio legislature remains to be seen.

  • Anonymous

    So it’s safe to say that the even the limited retesting in MA is so new that there hasn’t been any occasion for a MA teacher to be eligible to be asked to take the test?  That’s huge, as is the fact that the decision to retest is limited to the discretion of local officials.

    Great catch, Greg.

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Sommers is just like the rest of the Kasich zombies, he is a go-a-long-to-get-along lemming. They will do anything to make “da boss” happy. 
    A friend from Archbold, Ohio sent me a local newspaper with an article on the “Opinion” page headlined: “Bruce Goodwin Run Over By John Kasich Bus”.  It seems that Goodwin (R) was too vocal about where the money for privatization of the turnpike might be spent and resigned from the Turnpike Commission in protest of the lack of specifics in the plan (in spite of the fact that he voted for everything that Kasich wanted), so he was punished by having his two biggest Republican money counties (Williams and Fulton} taken away and given to that obnoxious little toad Wachtmann in redistricting  (yes, that the same republican Wachtmann that owns a water bottling plant in Napoleon and introduce the bill to allow the excessive plunder of Lake Erie). 
    Sorry I digress from education, but this is an explanation for why republicans in this state will NOT cross Kasich, it means getting run over by the bus.  They all crowd around the table to catch the crumbs that Kasich drops.  So much for government in Ohio under THIS administration!
    Put on your hard hats and grab a stick to defend your families, because Attila Kasich has come and he will pillage this state if you let him – VOTE NO on Issue 2!

  • Adrienne Knight


  • Anonymous

    Considering the huge percentage of businesses that fail, I don’t understand why people so blindly accept that operating government, or schools, or anything whose goal is NOT to make money “like a business” is a good idea.

  • Anonymous

    There are some such legislators. Unfortunately, they are all in the minority and the ones in the majority are drunk.

  • Anonymous

    Guess that’s a much more succinct way to put it.  🙂

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    Geez  I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone …………are there none up there in Columbus who will attack  the liars?  IF telling lies ever becomes a crime these people will be locked up for years !! 

    Wonder what agency will produce a liar next ?
    You have ODOT– Jerry Wray
    and now this Sommers person for education……… can only wonder whats next

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    drunk with getting more power…………I am so tired of this bunch and we have 3 more years ……… depressing thought

  • None of the new rules and regulations have anything to do with educating the children of the general public. The rules and regulations that the republicans have and are trying to implement are there only to get the biggest opponents of the republicans something to worry about and something to sidetrack them from working against the republicans. Of all of the opponents of the republicans, teachers are some of their most educated opponents and the majority of them are women. Something we have found that the republicans do not like. Educated women who tend to vote against them. Another reason to set up these rules and regulations. The good old boys believe women do not deserve to be paid well or treated well. So lets have them scramble and worry about their jobs so we can pull the old wool over their eyes latter in other major areas. It is also a form of punishment I feel towards us because we do not support much of what they propose to do. Then of course there is our pensions they want to get their sticky hands on. And yes the hated word  Unions. The one group that keeps management on their toes and the only group we can count on to look after our welfare. Oh yea and to get another thing off my chest. Unions are only as good as those they represent. The union is made up of workers. Not union bosses who say we have to do what they say. Now if they were really interested in education reform they would understand it has nothing to do with money. It has to do with how and what we teach. It has to do with a rising tide of clientele who learn differently then the previous generations. It has to do with administration worrying about what it would really look like if we really said how many students the schools are special ed. and not sweep them under the carpet by lowering the standard as to who is really sped. It has to do with how do we handle problem students who keep other students who want to learn from learning. These are powerful problems that could be addressed and studied and then with careful research worked into the school system and improved. Transformation of a large institution such as the school systems and education of our children needs to be done thoughtfully carefully and this is never quick or easy. The answer may be out there but testing teachers, merit pay, and constant unknowledgeably  criticism against those who do their absolute best and most is not the answer. I will admit there is in all working situations those who do not give their absolute best in their job or career (like Kasick and his side kicks) But the large majority of teachers do! and this set of politicians are not really in it to find the real answer to the problem of education overhaul. They just want to be Supermen like all little boys. It’s time they grow up. And be a man. Do the work the long slow hard way. The way that really works. Not some quick and easy way that will be proven wrong in a few short years.

  • The teaching profession prides itself in the ability to use researched data to guide our method of teaching yet where is the reliable research in this?

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