Ohio Gadfly Daily

Like many states, Ohio is struggling with how best to evaluate teachers and how to use those evaluations to inform personnel decisions (like remuneration, tenure, professional development, and ? when district budgets or enrollment levels leave no other choice ?layoffs). (Read today's Ohio Education Gadfly for more background on the Buckeye State's current legislative battle over teacher evaluations.)

Last week we released a video, What Ohio can learn from DC's teacher evaluations, featuring interviews with teachers evaluated under the DC IMPACT system. The teachers we interviewed ? which include science teachers, an elementary math coach, a fourth-grade teacher (of all subjects), a special ed middle school teacher, an art teacher, and a master educator (who conducts the observations on behalf of DCPS) ? shared what it's like to be evaluated via five observations each year and have part of their performance linked to student test scores.?

Today we released two more videos, wherein teachers evaluated under DC's IMPACT system address common fears and myths about rigorous evaluations.

Part 1

Part 2

Even prior to Ohio's legislative battle over teacher evaluations, myths and fears expressed by educators and policymakers about teacher evaluations have been rampant here. Opponents of overhauling teacher evaluation systems argue they're inherently unfair, arbitrary, prone...


Consistency in public policy is hard to come by. Special interests, ideology, and ignorance of issues (manipulated by lobbyists and other interested parties) all collide and compete for life in the cosmic swirl of the legislative process. There is a distinct lack of consistency around education policy in the competing budgets drafted by the Ohio House and Senate that could be remedied if each body could focus its proposals around issues of performance.

In its version of the state budget (HB 153), the Ohio House put forth legislative language on teacher effectiveness that is some of the most progressive in the country. It would connect measures of pupil academic growth to teachers and further connect teacher effectiveness to key personnel decisions. Teachers would be rated, in part, on the academic performance of their students over time, and they would receive ratings according to four tiers ??? highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory.

With a fair and rigorous system that measures gradations of teacher effectiveness using state assessment data, expert and peer evaluations, building- and district-level performance metrics, and even student evaluations, school systems can make smarter personnel decisions. They can reward their ablest instructors and put them in the classrooms where they are most needed, target support for teachers who warrant it and weed out those who are not a good fit for the profession. Layoffs can be based on performance instead of solely on seniority. These improvements would upgrade teacher effectiveness over time as they focus...


The Ohio Senate just released its version of the state's biennial budget. The Senate deserves much credit for the plethora of charter school provisions it deleted from the Houses' version (which as you probably know by now, Fordham and many others across the state opposed).

But even the removal of provisions that would have dramatically weakened charter quality and accountability can't make up for the fact that the Senate removed all of the excellent teacher personnel language in HB 153.

Fordham's Terry Ryan testified yesterday afternoon to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee to express our collective disappointment and implore lawmakers to prioritize policies to improve teacher effectiveness. ?

He described what's at stake by removing this language:

For as long as anyone can remember, in Ohio as in the rest of America, a public-school teacher's effectiveness and performance in the classroom have had little to no impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district's schools, or how her professional development is crafted. Instead, all of these critical decisions are made on the basis of quality-blind state policies, like the notorious ?last-in, first-out? mandate governing lay-offs, and tenure rules that allow teachers to have job protection for life and ?bump? less senior teachers when jockeying for positions. Effective teachers are forced to go simply because they have not taught as long as others, regardless of how successful


Like many states, Ohio is trying to figure out the best way to improve its teacher evaluation system as well as teacher personnel policies linked to them (like how best to remunerate teachers, grant them tenure, connect them with professional development, and ? when district budgets or enrollment levels leave no other choice - determine layoffs). Many states and districts already have dramatically overhauled these policies, while others are in the midst of intense debates over whether tying student growth to teacher evaluations is fair, whether states should mandate policies or leave it up to districts, what should constitute ?multiple measures? in an evaluation, and much more.

In Ohio, Fordham has witnessed this debate firsthand. Just yesterday, Terry testified to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, imploring them to restore the excellent teacher personnel provisions passed by the House that would have overhauled tenure and pay, ended LIFO and forced placement of teachers rated ineffective, and more. A similar op-ed also ran in today's Columbus Dispatch. If the Senate does not change course, all of those provisions will be removed and Ohio will be mired in antiquated teacher personnel rules and procedures (some of which have been around since 1941).

Even prior to this particular legislative battle, however, Fordham Ohio had been hearing lots of myths and fears expressed by educators and policymakers alike. Opponents of overhauling teacher...

Joanne Jacobs Diana Senechal (guest-blogging for Joanne Jacobs*) had an unusual blog post this morning, calling out two other blogs (GothamSchools and one by Ed Week's Sarah Sparks) for sloppy reporting ? or more specifically, sloppy titling. She writes:

I was a bit puzzled when I read the GothamSchools ?remainder?: ?Researchers in Houston are asking whether students can give teachers post-traumatic stress.? Post-traumatic stress? Is the study investigating whether teachers have bouts of depression, nightmares, etc. after they have stopped teaching?

I followed the link to the Edweek blog by Sarah Sparks, which bears the headline, ?Can a Class of 7th Graders Give Teachers Post-traumatic Stress?? But the article itself made it seem as though this were a study of teacher stress, not post-traumatic stress. (Sometimes the headlines are written by someone other than the blog's author.)

Indeed the study ? while potentially interesting ? has nothing to do with?post-traumatic stress?(it just so happens that the researcher conducting it has a background in researching trauma and PTSD). This mis-characterization of mental illness, and about teachers nonetheless, is frustrating in several other ways.

First, it completely misconstrues an actual medical definition. According to the DSM-4 PTSD occurs only after one's life ? or that of someone they love ? is threatened by serious injury or death. If one is aware of the true definition, then the headline leads you to believe that this particular class of seventh graders must...


The Ohio Senate will unveil its version of the state's biennial operating budget early next month. As we ? and others ? have made clear in many venues, the members of that body have their work cut out for them when it comes to the charter-school provisions inserted by the Ohio House.

Governor Kasich's original version of the budget sought to find a balance between expanding school choice and ensuring that schools of choice are held accountable for their students' performance. For instance, it expanded the state's EdChoice voucher program to provide immediate education options to more students who would otherwise attend failing public schools. It also imposed a ?smart? cap on charter authorizers while removing other barriers to opening new schools. In marked contrast, the House version significantly diminishes charter school accountability and basically empowers school operators as the functional equivalent of private schools unburdened by state rules and accountability requirements.

But that's just one small piece of a big story. Amid the clamor over the charter provisions, too little attention has been paid?or applause offered?for the many terrific features wrought by the governor and/or the House. In several key areas, the House built on the solid foundation laid out by Governor Kasich, upholding his dual goals of improving education in the Buckeye State while helping schools and districts adjust to doing more with less. Without raising taxes, the governor and House have proposed a balanced budget that would...

This morning Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Commissioner of Education for the state of Massachusetts (and Fordham board member) David Driscoll spoke to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee about education reforms in their respective states.

The Buckeye State is in the midst of its biennial budget debate, and with the budget bill ? mangled in some areas yet also improved in a few ways by the Ohio House ? now on the Senate table, state senators were eager to hear from two leading education practitioners who have been down the road before. And the road to reform is rough; neither Bennett nor Driscoll minced words about Ohio's financial challenges, the pushback lawmakers and policymakers will receive along the way, and the difficulty in achieving comprehensive, statewide reform.

The good news for Ohio is that we're not alone in pursuing the reforms embedded in HB 153 (or even in SB 5) and Bennett's and Driscoll's testimonies reaffirmed that the state is on the right track.

Bennett ? whose past career as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and sports coach became apparent through the countless sports metaphors in his testimony (titles for his slides included ?staying on the offense? and ?hitting the grand slam?) ? depicted a sense of urgency around lifting student achievement. With his team putting in place high goals for student performance and growth ? 90 percent of students will pass ELA and math; 25 percent of graduates will pass an AP...


Ohio is in the midst of a cosmic tussle around the future of its charter school program. Fordham's Checker Finn has been drawn into this in recent days (see here and here), and the New York Times even picked up on this yesterday with a great quote from Bill Sims of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The issue, in short, is whether for-profit charter operators should be allowed to operate free of any oversight beyond market forces. The proposed legislation from the Ohio House would neuter both non-profit governing boards and authorizers of their oversight responsibilities and authority, and give school operators carte blanche authority over virtually all school decisions. Let's be clear, we understand that oversight and accountability are things few people or organizations like if they can avoid them. Further, in Ohio charters have to pay their authorizers a fee of up to three percent of their per-pupil funding for this oversight, and that's money that could be spent on programs or in support of the bottom line.

But, consider the alternative. Let us imagine an Ohio without authorizers (aka sponsors in Ohio) or governing boards, which is what the House changes would allow. School operators would police themselves in key areas such as:

Test administration. Absent external oversight, operators would be solely responsible for administering and monitoring state tests. Should an allegation of testing impropriety arise (i.e., teachers cheated), the operator would be responsible for conducting an investigation into...


The status of the education of Hispanic students in the US is a hot topic of discussion. In this week's Ohio Education Gadfly, I reviewed a report from the Department of Education, Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community. The report described the recent rise in Hispanic population while highlighting the troubling status of education for them, including low participation in early education childhood programs and low graduation rates. Then today I read an article by Andy Rotherham that echoes a similar message of a rise in population, and a need for education reform for Hispanics. With all this recent talk I decided to dive into this topic a little bit and figure out what it means for our country and the State of Ohio.

Consider a few facts about the rise in the Hispanic population.

  • Between 2000-2010 the national Hispanic population grew by 15.2 million people ? accounting for over half of the overall population growth during that time period!
  • The Hispanic community is a young one with 17.1 million Hispanics under the age of 17
  • Hispanic students comprise 22 percent or one in five of all prek-12 students

The recent rise in the Hispanic population combined with their youthfulness makes them a vital component to the future success of our nation. However, educational achievement for Hispanic students is far from satisfactory. Rotherham states:

Only 17 percent of Hispanic 4th-graders score proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a

Guest Blogger

In March, Fordham's Ohio team released a report based on a survey of Ohio school district superintendents and other local education leaders. That report, Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak, was reviewed by two University of Houston professors for the Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center. Steve Farkas ? veteran public opinion researcher, co-founder of the FDR Group, and author of the report ? penned the following rejoinder to that review.

The FDR Group's recent survey of Ohio's school district superintendents, Yearning to Break Free (online here), conducted on behalf of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, found these local education leaders eager to overhaul the collective bargaining process and to increase their authority over staff and money. ?Give us autonomy,? they said, ?and hold us accountable for getting results.? Easy to understand, right? Well, two unhappy University of Houston professors reviewing the study ?for the National Education Policy Center's ?Think Tank Review Project? had a lot of trouble comprehending it.

From the get-go in their review, the professors failed to realize that the study was giving voice to the opinions of these school leaders ? not our opinions as researchers or even Fordham's but those of Ohio superintendents. The professors say, ?the authors of the study recommend [emphasis added] that ?two promising ways to save districts money are to give superintendents greater control over combined state revenue streams and to mandate a statewide health insurance plan?'? But the report...