Last week the Ohio House Education Committee held hearings related to several education bills currently on the table, among them HB 21, which aims to lift the ironclad moratorium on virtual e-schools, grant a professional educator license to graduates of Teach For America wishing to teach in the Buckeye State, and require the use of student performance data in evaluating teachers. Fordham's Terry Ryan, along with two teachers from Fordham-authorized charter schools, testified in support of the bill. (Read their testimonies here, here, and here.)
As we've noted before, this bill is a new iteration of Senate Bill 180 from the fall of 2009, for which Terry testified back then. What's different this time around, however, is that a GOP-controlled House is likely to go further than the Democratic-controlled House of a year-and-a-half ago, and push for bolder changes in each of these areas (and others). While Fordham supports the provisions of HB 21, the legislature can, and should, go further that merely granting licensure to TFA alums, lifting e-school caps, and requiring value-added data. As Terry said:
?much has changed just in the last year and change is happening fast in states across the country. The reality is that Ohio risks being leapfrogged by dozens of states in many crucial areas of education reform?. Thus, while I support House Bill 21 and its passage, I encourage this legislature to think more boldly. While the bill is a good start, it does not go far enough toward enacting the education reforms Ohio needs
Terry then went on to describe a complete overhaul of teacher personnel policies that would include changing the way we recruit, reward, evaluate, and dismiss teachers ? and getting rid of seniority-based layoffs.
If anyone on the committee had doubts about the importance of teacher effectiveness, whether or not it's possible to differentiate for it, and whether Ohio should rethink its treatment of Teach For America graduates, Abbey Kinson's and Jenna Davis's testimonies powerfully dispelled them.??
Kinson, contrasting her first experience getting ?evaluated? (by a principal on her cell phone for about 15 minutes) in a DC Public School classroom with the way she evaluates teachers at Columbus Collegiate Academy, illustrated that distinguishing highly effective teachers from the rest really isn't elusive if the right systems and metrics are in place. And Kinson is one to talk about teacher quality: she more than doubled her students' proficiency in math last year and 100 percent of her seventh graders were proficient on Ohio's math test. Despite this, Kinson laments:
I've proven that I know the best practices and have the skills to inspire kids to reach their potential. Yet, according to the Ohio Department of Education, I was not qualified to receive full licensure in middle school mathematics.
My experiences are typical of other Teach For America alums wanting to return to Ohio?. In many cases, great teachers have chosen to leave the profession and move on to higher paying jobs with a lot less red tape. Teach for America alums haven't been welcomed back home to Ohio, but rather, obstacles have been put in our paths.
Davis, despite having a traditional educator's background (in middle childhood education with concentrations in math and science), was still blocked from licensure in Ohio and told she'd be receiving a long-term sub's license, despite the fact that she previously:
?.Led [her] special education students to pass their Biology state test at a higher percentage rate than their counterparts in the state, and? led [her] Physical Science students to outperform their regular education peers on their state examination.????????????
We're hopeful that these testimonies not only compel lawmakers to pass the simple fixes in HB 21 but also to think more broadly and boldly about overall reforms to teacher evaluations, e-schools, and more.
- Jamie Davies O'Leary