Saturday, September 03, 2011

Hey, Governor, what are YOU doing this weekent to honor Ohio's laborers? Ah....I know, you are working to punish your public servants by serving up a large cup of Issue 2, aren't you?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Education reform.....CALL IT WHAT IT REALLY IS!

Education reform is basically an anti-teacher movement
September 2, 2011
The cat is out of the bag and the public is now aware that the education reform movement sweeping across every state in the country is basically an anti-teacher movement. The hypocrisy of so-called reformers such as Michelle Rhee and other non-educators in the so-called education reform movement is evident when they claim that they respect the work of teachers so long as teachers don't have control of their work environment and, in essence, are powerless to fight back due to the stripping away of their collective bargaining rights.

These reformers, all of whom are non-educators, have been back peddling and broadcasting a wide assortment of low-level propaganda while blaming teachers for everything that is wrong with education. However, as Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told her audience at their recent annual meeting, these so-called reformers "wouldn't last 10 minutes in a classroom."

In states such as New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio, we find that the governors are castigating teacher unions and schools' performance while slashing budgets and pushing for inane reforms that attempt to evaluate teachers based on test scores. As one AFT teacher from Ohio aptly stated, "we didn't become teachers for the pay or the benefits or the schedule, and no one's looking for a pat on the back for staying late to help kids, but what is happening in these states is the vilification of the schoolteacher."

Much of the problem related to teacher vilification can be attributed to the Obama administration, and especially with his appointment of a non-educator, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan's policies are very much anti-teacher in nature such as his support of evaluations based on standardized-test scores, which teachers perceive to be a failure to respect and honor the professionalism of teachers. Although the teachers that are part of the National Education Association at their annual meeting reluctantly endorsed Obama for re-election, they did so because the alternative to a Democratic president would be a Republican president. Hence, in light of the GOP attacks on bargaining rights in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and elsewhere, the NEA felt it important to endorse early. However, as one teacher at the NEA conference from Tennessee stated, "teachers can change their mind before November 2012 as teachers are the sleeping giant who can rock the boat." Moreover, if Obama is wise, he should heed the teacher warnings and clean house by appointing a new Secretary of Education, someone such as Diane Ravitch or Linda Darling Hammond, two outstanding educators who are highly respected in educational circles.

The so-called education reform movement in the country is based on two principles -- testing and the dismantling of teaching empowerment. It is a movement led primarily by non-educators such as Duncan, former D.C. chancellor Rhee, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and politicians such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. According to the plethora of reports and analyses of the reform movement in the media, it has become quite evident that "reformers" such as Rhee are simply discredited hucksters for the corporate push to take over and profitize schools in this country. Their real motive and hidden agenda is to first destroy the teachers unions and then to take over public education with for-profit charter schools as their primary vehicle of reform.

The movement by the non-educators to use test scores as the be-all and end-all of education reform has been a disaster for both students and teachers. It is also demeaning of teachers. Certainly, common sense would dictate that you cannot ignore, for example, the role poverty plays in academic achievement. As long as poverty exists it will be an important factor, and in order to move forward as a nation, we must improve the schools as well as reduce poverty.

As Diane Ravitch, education historian, has stated, "I don't want to get rid of testing. But testing should be used for information and diagnostics to improve teaching and learning, not to hand out bonuses, fire teachers and close schools."

Needless to say, high-stakes testing can lead to a sterile curriculum where teaching basically encompasses teaching to the test. It can also result in cheating. Witness, for example, what has happened in Atlanta, where cheating was rampant and where a recent investigation found that 178 principals and teachers -- including 82 who confessed -- took part so their schools would meet targets such as those established by Duncan in his Race To The Top (RTTT) program that relies primarily on test scores. Hence, some blame must go to the originators of these high-stakes testing programs such as No Child Left Behind and RTTT for the testing scandal in Atlanta. It should appear obvious to the so called "reformers" that the more they pressure teachers to raise test scores the more corrupt it becomes. You can't hold teachers responsible for things beyond their control that affect student achievement.

Testing experts and other experts in education have warned against this. When you place an unrealistic overemphasis on one instrument and make that instrument the defining factor in determining outcomes such as employment, prestige and income, the more it will be subjected to corruption pressures. Think of what is at stake. Student test scores are now used to determine whether teachers and principals are good or bad, whether a teacher should be fired or get a bonus, whether a school is a success -- and remains open -- or a failure and will be closed. Race To The Top pits teacher against teacher or schools against schools and states against each other. Instead of a model of education reform that is based on cooperation and support, we have an environment in most schools that is competitive in nature.

Despite the fact that the test-and-punish style of reform has failed to improve student learning, especially in urban schools, the media continues to espouse and support it as evidenced in the teacher and union bashing documentary, "Waiting for Superman." But, as the NEA teacher from Tennessee pointed out, teachers are the "sleeping giant" and, in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker in his education policies aimed at stripping away teachers' bargaining rights, has awakened the sleeping giant. In actuality, Wisconsin is the "eye of the storm" for teachers' rights and represents a microcosm for what is happening in other parts of the country. In an unprecedented recall election spearheaded by the Wisconsin Education Association in early August, six Republican state senators were challenged in which the Democrats were able to pick up two extra seats giving the Republicans a razor-thin margin of 17 to 16 in control of the state legislature. The teachers, in a grassroots fervor mode, have as their next goal to get rid of Walker in another recall election in which the process of collecting signatures for his recall is scheduled to begin in January 2012. If Walker's recall election comes to fruition, it could rival in importance the presidential elections scheduled later in November. Likewise, what is happening in Wisconsin has also spread to Ohio where Governor Kasich's bill to strip away collective bargaining rights is also being challenged. Hence, one can say in light of these events that teachers across the country who have been subjected to vilification are no longer getting mad, they are getting even!

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D., is the teaching internship program director at the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

STRS Executive Appraisal Form Committee to meet September 6

From STRS, August 31, 2011
The State Teachers Retirement Board of Ohio's Executive Appraisal Form Committee will meet at the STRS Ohio Offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, at 1 p.m

Monday, August 29, 2011

HB 194 Referendum and How it affects SB 5 Referendum

From Mary Lou Guizzo, August 29, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some additional GOOD news and BAD news re. Teacher Retesting forced by the Budget Bill (House Bill 153) and "The List".........

From John Curry, August 28, 2011
......from an Ohio Department of Education with a leadership that still won't be clear on particulars because they don't know what they are doing either! You aren't surprised, are you? Greg Mild (Columbus Education Association member and classroom teacher) does an excellent job of explaining some questions that many have.
[Live links contained in the three graphics in the article below may be accessed by clicking on the Plunderbund link above. Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Good News & Bad News about Retesting Teachers
By On August 28, 2011
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: 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….

So...what is all this hubbub about teachers being forced to retest by the Ohio Department of Education?

From John Curry, August 27, 2011 there a conflict of interest with our "new" State Superintendent of Ohio's schools? You be the judge!
P.S. ....the article below doesn't tell you but this "requirement" to retest was quickly (and quietly) included (by Governor Kasich) in the recently passed "Ohio Budget Bill" aka House Bill 153. Following the article below is a link you can go to to see a list of all the teachers who have to retest, what school they teach at and how much they will be charged. It's not their fault they are teaching (for the most part) in a poverty struck school district where their students don't have a education friendly home or a decent breakfast every morning along with the surroundings that nurture good academic achievement. Do you think that just might be the reason why their schools finished in the bottom 10% of all schools taking the tests rather than the collective faults of their classroom teachers? Governor Kasich doesn't think so, does he?
Ohio Teachers Question New Boss' Love of Tests
Cleveland Scene, August 23, 2011
Vince Grzegorek
Back in spring, John Kasich replaced Ohio’s schools superintendent with a veteran administrator with ties to Northeast Ohio. Stan Heffner’s résumé includes a 15-year stint as the boss at Madison Local Schools in Lake County. Since 2004, he’s been an associate superintendent for the state Board of Education, in charge of how public schools measure their success.

Given his expertise, it was no surprise that Heffner’s testimony in a May Senate hearing on Ohio’s budget bill featured a new twist: support for a proposal that all teachers in failing schools be required to retake their certification tests. He was all for it.

What wasn’t so widely noticed was that Heffner had already made plans to move on after his interim position. His next stop: Senior executive for Educational Testing Service, Ohio’s one-stop-shop for standardized testing.

“This is the testing company that Ohio teachers have been required to use for years,” says Greg Mild, a Columbus teacher who has filed a complaint over Heffner’s appointment with the Ohio Ethics Commission. “Having been with the Department of Education, he has no excuse for not knowing this is the sole source provider for these Ohio tests. Legally, I don’t know if he violated ethics rules. Personally, I think he did.”

At least one state legislator agrees. Representative Debbie Phillips of Athens has asked the state inspector general to investigate Heffner’s potential conflict of interest. As schools across the state resume this week, neither the Ethics Commission nor the inspector general has commented on the status of those requests.

But last month, Heffner fired up a curveball. Although he had not been in the running for the job, he was appointed permanent state superintendent at the last minute after two of the three top candidates withdrew. Heffner’s reason for the late arrival: The remaining candidate was not from Ohio, and he felt the position should go to someone more familiar with the state.

Scene’s request for an interview with Heffner was met with a statement in which he made his case for being wonderful. “I stand firm in my commitment to the position and appreciate the faith placed in me by the state Board,” he said. “I am confident that I have no conflict of interest and am working to move the Ohio Department of Education forward. I am committed to full transparency and welcome ongoing review.”

Heffner’s words don’t allay the concerns of Mild and Phillips, who cite Ohio’s rich tapestry of corruption as reason enough to probe under every rock.

“The public’s trust in public servants has been damaged over the years by various scandals,” says Phillips. “I think that leads to cynicism and a decrease in participation. I think the appearance of conflict feeds into that loss of civic participation.” — Anastasia Pantsios

Note from is that link for the list of teachers:

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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