Stan Heffner, corruptible leader.  Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction has insulted the intelligence of Ohioans once again.  In an effort to convince people that he knows what he’s doing, he took the stage this week and told an audience of Charter School advocates that Ohio’s academic standards are “no longer good enough.” The Columbus Dispatch titled their article about the event:

Throughout the speech, Heffner cast blame on “the system” and implied that Ohio has rested on its laurels for far too long.

The entire (state) system is focused on minimum competence, and there is no reward for going beyond that. There is no incentive to excel, and we became so enamored with these report cards.”

The system is not asking enough of these kids.”

“If Ohioans want good jobs, … we need to step it up.”

Heffner said the state is working to ramp up curriculum guidelines and a testing system starting in the 2014-15 school year, although he urged educators not to wait.

Doesn’t that make you furious?  Wouldn’t you like to know who is responsible for such a grievous offense on Ohio’s children?

Okay, so we’re predictable.  The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Stan Heffner, Ohio’s Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment since 2004.

In 2007, the Fordham Institute published a report titled The Proficiency Illusion.  The report essentially stated exactly what Heffner just ranted about in his speech, mainly that state expectations for Ohio students fall far short.  Ironically, the exact same Dispatch reporter covered that story, too:

A search of the various state newspapers covering that story reveals that individuals from ODE were divided up among the reporters, with each having their own take on the appropriate talking points.  Heffner shared his perspective with the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Ohio’s reading and math cut scores ranked among the lower half of the 26 states examined, the report says.

But Ohio officials say that the report’s methodology is “fairly suspect.” Fordham’s methods can’t accurately assess one state’s tests against another’s.

We have a lot of apples and oranges here,” said Stan Heffner, associate superintendent of curriculum assessment for the Ohio Department of Education. Low cut scores on a test means students can miss many questions and still pass, or be considered proficient.  Heffner said that Ohio’s tests are difficult, perhaps more than other states, so lower cut scores reflect that.

“Not all tests are created equal,” he said.

The Dispatch had the pleasure of speaking with Mitchell Chester, now the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts (Ohio’s “model state” for Retesting Teachers).

Chester said different assessment systems make state-by-state comparisons difficult. Some tests are harder than others and, as the Fordham report points out, passing scores vary.

A better gauge, he said, is student scores on the national assessment.

[The Fordham Report] came a week after a report showing that Ohio students outperformed those in most other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests.

“It flies in the face of this Fordham report,” said Mitchell Chester, senior associate superintendent for the Ohio Department of Education.

Two full years pass……….

All the way to October 2009 when a cadre of advocacy groups including the Fordham Institute and the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools called for tougher standards.  This was in the midst of the development of the national Common Core education standards that Ohio, especially Stan Heffner, were involved in writing. And how did Heffner respond to this call to raise the bar?

Ohio has helped write a set of common standards that are research-based and benchmarked to top performing countries, and could be adopted anywhere in the nation. But the state won’t use those, instead revamping its existing standards, Associate Superintendent Stan Heffner said.

The common standards won’t be finalized until January and, by law, Ohio must adopt new ones for English, math, science and social studies by June 30. It’s not enough time, Heffner said, and they’ll be too different from the academic content the state currently believes is important.

We imagine the breakup sounding like this:

Heffner: “Hey, look guys, you have  some really impressive and rigorous standards you’ve got there.  I mean, we even helped write them.  But look, we’re going to have to take a pass.  See, we sort of have a curfew…but there’s more.  We actually have some other stuff we’d like to teach that I think is better than research-based stuff. Well…I’ve got your phone number so if things change I’ll give you a call.”

May 2010:  “Hello?  Hi, it’s me, Stan Heffner.  From Ohio.”
In May 2010, ODE reported to the Board of Education on the adoption of the new standards, including the national Common Core curriculum for English and math. Too bad Stan delayed the process back in 2007:

Students, however, won’t be held to the higher standards until the 2014-15 school year. The four-year delay is needed to allow state educators time to develop corresponding model curriculum and assessments, and to give teachers an opportunity to prepare.

In testimony before the House Education Committee, assistant superintendent Stan Heffner said “the new standards require higher-order thinking skills” such as reasoning, analysis and problem-solving.

Let’s see…if Heffner had acted on the report in 2007 to raise the bar, and if a four-year delay is necessary to allow educators time to adapt, then that would have put the changes in place around 2011-2012.  Hey, that’s now!

Look, we are well aware that Heffner simply goes whichever way the wind blows and he’s currently trying to appease the Governor, which means appeasing the charter school supporters, which means jumping however high the Fordham Institute dictates.  But Heffner’s flip-flopping routine is getting too hard to follow.  This man could give Mitt Romney a serious challenge in that category.

  • State assessments are just fine — assessments need overhauled
  • Curriculum is suitable for Ohio — let’s adopt something new
  • Teachers need four years to adjust — teachers should not wait
  • I’m not applying to be superintendent — I accept the Board president’s offer!
  • I’m going to work for ETS — I accept the Board president’s offer!

And the latest occurrence was today when we received a copy of the ODE Newsletter for the Offices of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were discussed at Heffner’s presentation earlier this month and in newspaper accounts of the event and were propped up as evidence of the need to “ramp up” the Ohio tests.  These are the same national assessments that Heffner’s ODE dismissed as irrelevant back in 2007, but are now indicative of Ohio’s educational failings.

Except that Heffner apparently forgot to distribute an internal ODE memo about raising the bar:

Hmm…are those results good?  Or bad?

Apparently it all depends on who’s writing the checks.