Ohio Gadfly Daily

Ohio is in the midst of some serious and much-needed education reform. Unfortunately, the good stuff is getting lost in the noise of high-profile political controversies around relatively marginal issues like charter schools. Consider that only four percent of the states children attend charter schools; yet the political debate for the last week in Columbus around school reform has been almost exclusively around charters.

We've been drawn into this and haven't been shy about commenting (see here, here and here), but it has been seriously frustrating to be in this debate. In fact, the House charter language was so one-sided and out of kilter that it should never have even made it out of the House. If it had been presented to some of the state's charter school leaders ahead of time ??? like the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools ??? it would surely have been refined and improved upon before being put forth in the budget. Water under the bridge now, and hopefully the Senate will fix the mess passed their way.

Yet, despite the charter challenge, the House - building on some good stuff passed to them by the Governor - has gotten a lot right in the budget. First, considering the $8 billion budget deficit facing the state the House-passed the pain across school districts in what can only be described as fair and equitable. Poor districts and their students have not been hit as hard as wealthier districts, and for...

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The insanity of the charter school provisions inserted by the Ohio House of Representatives into Ohio's pending budget bill will come as no surprise to Flypaper readers after Terry's post last Friday. Here's another gem tucked into HB 153 by House Republicans (new language inserted by the House is underlined):

Sec.??3314.04. Except as otherwise specified in this chapter and in the contract between a community school and a sponsor entered into under section 3314.08 of the Revised Code, such school is exempt from all state laws and rules pertaining to schools, school districts, and boards of education, except those laws and rules that grant certain rights to parents. No community school shall be required to comply with any education laws or rules or other requirements that are not specified in this chapter or in the contract entered into under section 3314.08 of the Revised Code that otherwise would not apply to a chartered nonpublic school.

In short, this provision states that charter schools (they're officially called ???community schools??? in the Buckeye State) will not have to comply with any education laws or rules that exist outside of chapter 3314 of the Ohio Revised Code (Ohio's charter school law), unless those laws also apply to the state's private schools.

What does that mean in practice? Will charters now be exempt from the Ohio Achievement Assessments, the state's accountability system, basic teacher licensure rules, and rules governing things like student attendance?...

Late last week the Ohio House released its amendments to the governor's biennial budget bill (HB 153). While the changes related to charter schools are atrocious ? as Terry pointed out in courageous fashion (winning the support of Democratic bloggers and organizations who would never typically string ?Fordham? and ?agree? in the same sentence together) ? changes related to teacher personnel provisions are a huge improvement.

In the original version, teacher personnel reforms were headed in the right direction but the details were off. While the bill eliminated LIFO, streamlined teacher dismissal procedures, and tried to establish meaningful performance evaluations and merit pay, it also retained antiquated variables like level of license (heavily correlated with having a master's degree) and highly qualified status as measures of ?performance? that would have allowed districts to continue making personnel decisions using these proxies for seniority. Teacher reforms are much clearer in the House version.

The timeline for the state superintendent (yet to be selected) to determine a model framework for teacher evaluations creates a sense of urgency (December 31, 2011); districts would have until July 2012 to submit their own frameworks. ?Teacher evaluations will incorporate student growth (50 percent); use three year's worth of data when measuring a students' gains; and rate teachers according to four tiers ? highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory.

More importantly, these new teacher evaluation ratings (which will be published in the aggregate by the state department...

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Budget language presented yesterday by the Ohio House, run by Republicans, risks making the Buckeye State the nation's laughing stock when it comes to charter school programs. During the early and mid-2000s Ohio was known as the Wild West of charter school programs because the state encouraged dozens of charter schools to spring up over night.

Ohio early on hewed to a laissez-faire approach to school growth and quality. As a result some of the people and organizations that launched schools were ill-prepared. Some had eccentric views of what a school should be. Some operators turned out to be more interested in personal enrichment than in delivering high-quality instruction to poor kids.

As a result, headlines such as ???Charters Fail to Deliver,??? ???State Audit Says Charter School Company Owes Thousands,??? and ???Wild Experiment??? were ubiquitous. Things were so bad that the then Republican State Auditor Jim Petro issued a report blasting the Ohio Department of Education for being such a weak and non-selective charter school authorizer. Less than a year later the Republican-controlled General Assembly had passed HB364 which required the Ohio Department of Education to get out of the business of sponsoring charter schools entirely.

This was the first effort at cleaning up Ohio's troubled charter school program and it would be followed up in subsequent years by further reforms to the program by Republicans that included the implementation of one of the nation's toughest automatic charter school closure laws.. As a result of seeking a...

Yesterday Gov. Kasich signed long-awaited legislation to enable Teach For America to have a home in the Buckeye State.?? Now that legislation is official ? and TFA can place teachers across all grades and subjects (the primary barrier for the last two decades) ? several important questions are cropping up. With which districts will TFA partner? How can it expect to place teachers as districts ? especially large urban ones like Cleveland that are likely TFA partners ? are laying off veterans? How can Ohio avoid headlines like this, and avoid tossing new corps members into a controversial thicket like what's happening in Kansas? (A friend emailed me right away to express excitement about the bill but as a traditionally trained teacher, this was her first question ? do you think TFAers should take jobs during layoffs? I had no good answer for her. I bet TFA will struggle with this one.)

Beyond the obvious questions about TFA's move onto Ohio soil, several other things stood out from the bill signing. First, despite wide-ranging support for the program, there's still a lot of opposition to the program and until teachers are working successfully in classrooms to bust some myths, I don't expect that to go away.? Second, it shouldn't be surprising but is interesting nonetheless how the governor took credit for bringing TFA here (he drew a direct line between mentioning TFA in his...

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This morning in Fordham's hometown of Dayton, four education leaders and advocates working for change in the city of Dayton spoke on a panel. Among those in the audience included district leaders, parochial and charter school principals, and legislators. The panel included Fordham's Terry Ryan, the Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools Lori Ward, President of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School Dan Meixner, and Kevin Kelly, Dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton.

The panel spoke to the different challenges facing the Dayton community and the desperate need for education reform in the city. While the panelists disagreed about certain things there were two big areas of agreement that stood out.

The need for a supportive community

The moderator, Ellen Belcher from the Dayton Daily News, asked a question about what was needed of the Dayton community to foster reforms in education and move the city in the right direction. The panelists agreed that community support and involvement is crucial for education reform; however, they noted that it is extremely difficult to build in Dayton because of a variety of factors. They noted that obstacles, such as children coming to school hungry or who have even seen a parent been shot before their eyes, bring challenges to the classroom that are difficult to overcome. It is also no secret to anyone in the Dayton community...

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The Prairie State has captured attention for its recent overhaul of policies governing teacher tenure, transfer, and dismissal. Senate Bill 7 ? which has yet to make its way through the Illinois House of Representatives ? is significant in that it not only passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate (59-0) but also was introduced by a Democrat (Sen. Kimberly Lightford) and garnered the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and the Chicago Teachers Union.

The substance of SB 7 is good news for schools and students ? it ends last in, first out layoffs and allows teachers' seniority to only serve as a ?tie breaker? after performance is considered; gets rid of forced (seniority-based) transfers; and ties dismissal and tenure to meaningful performance reviews. (It also makes the Chicago Teachers Union's ability to strike contingent on 75 percent approval by membership. For more details, read a summary of the bill by the reform group Advance Illinois.) But what's more notable than the bill's details is the broad bipartisan support it earned, the political process behind its passage, and the lessons this bears for Ohio ? where similar teacher personnel changes are being passed but in dramatically different fashion.

Prairie State Politics

For starters, it's worth pointing out that the political situation in Illinois is quite different from that in Ohio, where unions have wholly rejected teacher policy reforms. The Buckeye State passed a bill ending LIFO, streamlining teacher...

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Ohio's recently passed SB5 would make Ohio the first state in the country to mandate performance pay for educators. The law wipes out the step-and-lane salary schedule that has been the basis of teacher pay since the early part of the 20th century and requires districts to adopt new merit-based pay systems. This is potentially a very big deal but the law will likely be challenged by a referendum in November and the courts will surely be drawn into this as school districts attempt to implement the changes. It will likely be months if not years before the law will actually change how teachers are remunerated in the Buckeye State.

It is interesting to go back in time and see how the current step-and-lane system emerged. My friend and long-time Daytonian Nancy Diggs wrote a book in 1997 on the life of Evangeline Lindsley called My Century: An Outspoken Memoir. Lindsley was one of Dayton's truly outstanding 20th century educators and was recognized as one of city's Ten Top Women in 1981. Lindsley also served as president of the Classroom Teachers Association in Dayton, and was elected as only the second member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Education Association in the 1930s. She lived to be over 100.

In My Century Lindsley shared how the single-salary schedule came to be in Dayton during the Great Depression:

It was in the early ???30s that I found out that there was quite a difference in

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Richard Whitmire worries that Republican governors are pushing too far too fast on school reform?and that a big backlash is coming?or might already be here.

My sense is that the school reform movement?roughly defined as those who believe that schools alone can make a dent in the seemingly intractable problems arising from the confluence of race and poverty?is headed into a major beat down.

Why the pessimism? I'm watching Ohio Gov. John Kasich make one of the most boneheaded moves I can imagine, trying to solve his budget problem by trimming back union collective bargaining while simultaneously imposing school reforms such as ushering in better teacher evaluations.

Does he really think teachers horrified at a peel-back of their collective bargaining are going to embrace a new teacher evaluation system? A similar package of twinned reforms is working its way through the Tennessee legislature. In Ohio, teacher union officials vow to place the governor's reforms on the November ballot, putting both budget and education reforms at risk.

Set aside for a moment Whitmire's, well, boneheaded analysis on the policy merits of Kasich's reform plans. (What's the point of introducing a rigorous teacher-evaluation system if poorly performing teachers can never be fired, thanks to provisions in collective-bargaining agreements? And does Whitmire really believe that teachers in Ohio were going to ?embrace? tougher evaluations were it not for Senate Bill 5? Clearly Whitmire hasn't done much of the ?on the ground? reporting he likes to promote?in Ohio at...

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Ohioans are waiting to see if Senate Bill 5, which would greatly reduce public sector collective bargaining in Ohio, can be repealed at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, teachers unions and local school districts are working fast to avoid the legislation's consequences, at least anytime soon.

Changes to state law cannot trump existing collective bargaining agreements. So until a teacher union contract expires, teachers and districts won't have to comply with the bill's provisions. Those include (among other things): prohibiting strikes; removing decisions about leave policies, class sizes, and employee assignment from the scope of collective bargaining; prohibiting salaries from increasing solely due to time on the job; removing seniority as the prime determinant of layoffs; allowing districts to pay no more than 85 percent of employees' health care premiums; and prohibiting districts from paying any portion of employees' pension contribution.

We've seen a rash of one- or two-year contracts agreed to recently as a result of SB 5, including in Columbus, the state's largest district. A few locals have negotiated longer agreements, like Bexley, outside Columbus, where teachers and the district agreed to a four-year contract in quick fashion (a single day!). That agreement ends in July 2015, by which time Ohioans may well have ousted the current governor and Republican House majority and replaced them with Democrats who will have overturned the work of the previous administration.

What's missing from many of these agreements are attempts to deal with...

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