8790342eb14d5bc35ca23b6bc8a7fe5f_400x400In 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich’s first year in office, Bob Sommers (pictured) was appointed as Kasich’s director of 21st Century Education.  Sommers took the lead on crafting education reform policy for the Governor, and dumped many proposed reforms into Kasich’s first budget while the Senate Bill 5 (Issue 2) repeal effort was under way.  One of the more significant proposals that Sommers crafted in the budget was a change in legislation that would have required thousands of Ohio’s public school teachers to retake content-based tests, the same tests that the teachers had already taken and passed to initially earn their teaching licenses.

Exactly five years and four days ago today, the topic of teacher retesting led to me (Greg) posting my very first blog post ever on Plunderbund.  That post, Kasich’s “New” Teacher Testing Program: Straight out of 1987!, detailed the absurdity of the concept of the proposal and was the first of numerous posts on the topic that led me to spend hours researching the proposal and, interestingly enough, ultimately resulted in the resignation of Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner in the summer of 2012.

At the time, Sommers, via the state budget, claimed that the concept of retesting teachers came from successful legislation that had been implemented in Massachusetts.  From Governor Kasich’s 2011 Jobs Budget, Blue Book Five: The Reforms Book, page 7.

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.

Struggling schools need to be sure teachers are competent and fully capable of teaching their assigned curriculum. Testing teachers to be sure they know their content and basic pedagogy is a key step in this process.

Testing will make sure teachers are competent in the subjects they are teaching. Limiting this provision to poor-performing schools will minimize costs and avoid unnecessary burdens on quality schools.

A quick clarification: The Reform Book stated five percent, while the language in HB 153 clearly said ten percent. 

My research on the topic ultimately took me to Massachusetts state law, including conversations with The Massachusetts Department of Education and the President of the Boston Teachers Union.  What I uncovered back then still bothers me to this day, though I’m still not surprised.   As I wrote on October 9, 2011:

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.

In short, Sommers fabricated the entire narrative.  The series of posts I wrote back then about Kasich’s friend Sommers is probably best summarized by an exchange of emails between Sommers and me that I blogged about on October 1, 2011:

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:

Greg,

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.

http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr2.html?section=all

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
614-995-1813

The email arrived at 6:52 pm.  At 8:13 pm, I fired off my reply:

Dr. Sommers,

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 assessmentThe superintendent or the school’s receiver, if any, may require allmathematics 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:

(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.

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 formupdated 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.

Sincerely,
Greg

And now, Sommers is back to grab the reigns of Ohio’s Public Schools as State Superintendent, the job he was fast-tracked for in 2011 before a “glitch” in planning by Kasich and Sommers forced Sommers to withdraw from consideration that year because of Ohio’s pesky ethics laws.

For our readers who weren’t yet followers of the blog back in that tumultuous year of 2011, below are the links to our posts about Sommers & the teacher retesting legislation from that year.  Note: the legislation to retest over 6,000 public school teachers passed successfully that year as a part of the budget and was only amended later by the Ohio General Assembly, once Sommers had left his job in Kasich’s office to return to his passion for making money running charter schools.

April 13, 2011: Kasich’s budget forces tens of thousands of teachers to pay $6 Million in retesting costs

April 20, 2011: Kasich’s “New” Teacher Testing Program: Straight out of 1987!

May 29, 2011: Interim Superintendent of Schools Hides Personal Interest, Deceives Senate

June 9, 2011: Oops, Senate missed a line. Who will fund teacher testing?

July 11, 2011: Plunderbund files ethics complaint against schools superintendent

July 12, 2011: Ohio ethics complaint rounds out Heffner’s credentials for state school board

August 27, 2011: [PB Exclusive:] Teacher Retesting list revealed – 6,333 thrown under the bus

August 28, 2011: Good News & Bad News about Retesting Teachers

September 3, 2011: [VIDEO] State Superintendent says Teacher Retesting list is real

September 18, 2011: Governor’s office still spreading lies about teacher retesting

October 1, 2011: Governor’s office responds about Teacher Retesting; we correct them…again

October 9, 2011: Massachusetts confirms that Ohio’s Education Director repeatedly provided false testimony

 

The Ohio Department of Education has continually been rocked by scandal under the Kasich administration and the State Superintendent position has become more politically motivated than ever.  Is this really the type of person we want stepping in?

 

 
  • fry1laurie

    If at first you don’t succeed (to destroy public schools for corporate profit) try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.

  • CherMoe

    This superintendent of destruction NEEDS TO GO. And please take John Kasich, Ohio’s liar/thief-in-chief with you!

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