Teachers

An article in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch delivered two important reminders regarding teacher performance-pay. First, even in cities that have experimented with it for several years (Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati) the results are incredibly difficult to measure. (Recall that even Texas, which has some of the oldest and most comprehensive performance pay plans, has mixed results.)??

Second ??? and most salient on everyone's minds ??? is the fact that performance-pay is very expensive. Districts relying on grant funding from programs like the national Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) or the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) eventually need to use their own funds to supplant grant money. The Dispatch provides an example:

The four Columbus schools that have been trying TAP the longest -- Easthaven and Parkmoor elementary schools, Champion Middle and South High -- are no longer funded by the grant, which means the district is picking up the tab. The grant for the four other schools -- Fifth Avenue and Lindbergh elementary schools, and Clinton and Starling middle schools -- will run out at the start of the next school year???. The district also must cut its budget by millions, a promise made by the school board in its 2008 levy campaign. There's no guarantee that TAP will continue.

With so many Ohio districts facing sizeable budget deficits (not to mention the tidal wave of costs resulting from Gov. Strickland's ???evidence-based??? mandates), maintaining ??? let alone expanding ??? performance-pay programs...

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Last week I, and others, took the Dayton Education Association to task for its decision to scuttle the district's participation in the state's Race to the Top application. To understand this criticism, consider that the union rejected RttT funds in the face of a $5 million budget shortfall caused by rising home foreclosures and delinquent property taxes.

Further, Dayton's school district has seen 10,000 students flee for charters and other places in the last decade (shrinking from 24,000 students to about 14,000 students) and enrollment in the DEA has dropped from 2,000 in 1998 to about 1,100 in 2008. During this time the union has steadfastly resisted any serious reform, despite real efforts by different superintendents and school boards over the last decade. Dayton is perennially ranked as one of the lowest performing districts in Ohio, battling the likes of Cleveland and Youngstown for the dubious distinction of worst in the Buckeye State.????

If any urban school district in America needs reform, it's Dayton, and the reforms embedded in RttT are steps in the right direction. When asked why the DEA rejected RttT funding, here is what the union president had to say:

How would you like your job to be based on criteria over which you had no control? Let's say you are an editorial writer for a city newspaper. How would it be for your evaluation to be based on how many ads your paper sold? Understand, you are not...

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After the release last month of The New Teacher Project's Cincinnati-focused human capital reform report (see Jamie's take here), both district and union leadership seemed genuinely intent on using their upcoming contract negotiations to work together toward improving the district's schools.???? Education-reform-wise, things seemed to be looking up in the Queen City, a place where I've long been optimistic about the potential for improving education, given the city's dynamic school choice market and the fact that the district is one of the few in the Buckeye State to actually shut down persistently failing schools. But now with district-union contract negotiations just around the corner, my optimism is waning.????

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Ben Fischer reports that in the first few months of the school year, the union filed 51 grievances against the district for low-level contract violations and asked the State Employee Relations Board to investigate an unfair labor practice charge related to the superintendent's plan for addressing persistently failing schools. The number of grievances isn't unusually high, but the unfair labor practice charge puts at risk the district's attempt to close and redesign its worst schools. If the district can't do that, and if the new collective bargaining agreement is more of the same-old, same-old and not informed much by TNTP's findings, Cincinnati's education reform efforts might be doomed to suffer the same fate as its beloved Bengals.????????

- Emmy Partin...

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OhioFlypaper

Check out this special edition of the Ohio Education Gadfly, a look back at the decade's most significant education events in Ohio. 2010 bring new opportunities for K-12 education in Ohio, but let's not forget the impact of things like DeRolph, the Zelman voucher case, Strickland's "evidence-based" funding model, charter legislation, value-added measures, and more, and their potential to shape (for better or for worse) education reform in the Buckeye State in years to come.

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When Emmy returned from a Midwest REL conference on educator compensation in October, she brought with her a Center on Education Reform report on "alternative compensation terminology." Not the most scintillating title, but the paper had some persuasive takeaways. Educators and policy makers have far too many expressions denoting alternative compensation (merit, pay, alternative compensation, differentiated pay, pay for performance, etc), and terminology should be streamlined. "Merit pay" especially has negative connotations leftover from its use in the 1980s and 90s and therefore should be discontinued (the term is outdated and brings to mind the system of paying teachers based on potentially biased principal evaluations).

Okay. I can see the need to evolve our vocabulary. Every since reading this report, I've made a conscious effort to be more precise when referencing alternative compensation.

But my conscientiousness can only go so far. When it comes to discussing the impact teachers make on student performance, I will not refer to "context-adjusted achievement test effects" in lieu of "value-added." Sorry, Center for American Progress. Their newly released report, "Adding Value to Discussions about Value-Added," argues that:

"...the conventional language used to discuss productivity today- especially the term "value-added"-is well-suited to that sector of the economy. In elementary and secondary education, however, the use of the term value-added has proved problematic. Although widely embraced by researchers and policymakers to denote estimates of teachers' productivity, typically referred to as effectiveness, the term value-added ???sends chills down the spine' of...

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The Education Gadfly

Our latest report, "Tracking and Detracking: High Achievers in Massachusetts Middle Schools ," analyzes the implications of tracking, or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement.??It takes a look at Massachusetts middle schools - both those that have retained tracking and those that have moved away from it (detracked). Among the report's key findings: detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. Read the full report here .

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This week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) unveiled its Cincinnati-focused report on human capital reform. The report's recommendations for Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) are similar (predictably so) to client reports for other districts, like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's because problems related to teacher quality are ubiquitous in American urban education.

Read the Cincinnati findings as well as the defensive reaction of the CFT, and you'll swear you could be reading a narrative of any city's human capital challenges: late hiring timelines prevent districts from snagging the best teacher candidates; evaluating teachers once every five years is meaningless; single step salary structures aren't the best way to recruit and reward excellence. It's chocked full of a lot of common sense. But common sense doesn't always translate into political action and policy reform.

Where TNTP's client cities part ways is in their willingness to truly make "teacher effectiveness" the helm of the human capital ship, and to measure this with student performance data. (There are other ways that districts/states can improve teacher quality but whether they place "effectiveness" at the core of their human capital philosophy says volumes.)??

In Ohio, the budget bill raised the bar for teacher tenure to seven years (the highest in the country among tenure-granting states) and made it easier to dismiss the worst teachers. These changes are positive, but ultimately don't overhaul the way that teachers are evaluated. Without meaningful...

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OhioFlypaper

The holiday season has arrived - and here at Fordham Ohio we're feeling pretty darn generous. ??We've decided to bestow upon you this week not one, but TWO Ohio Education Gadflies!

Hot on the heels of Monday's Special Edition, the regular Ohio Education Gadfly returns and you won't want to miss it!

This edition features a Q&A with Mark North, superintendent of Lebanon City Schools whose district is facing challenges from the unfunded mandates in H.B. 1. Jamie provides timely coverage of a report from The New Teacher Project that could have profound implications for improving teacher effectiveness in Cincinnati Public Schools. And be sure to check out a recap of Checker's recent keynote address at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools Annual Conference. (You can find the full text here??and the Q&A session below.)

The Dayton Daily News asked today why the "big names" in education from the Dayton area weren't on the state's new "Ohio School Funding Advisory Council". The names referenced included Fordham's Terry Ryan.

Capital Matters overfloweth with timely coverage of the recent flood of education-related legislation. Among them are bills that address the Buckeye State's bid in Race to the Top, and the proposed changes to the Ohio school rating system and its all-day kindergarten mandate.

Rounding out the issue are several excellent short reviews and Flypaper's...

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One of the main criticisms of individual-teacher merit pay is that it will undermine teacher collaboration. This same argument is also leveled at teachers who choose to sell their lesson plans online. Will putting a price tag on instructional materials undermine forums that encourage the free (literally and figuratively) exchange of ideas? Will it devalue them as educational tools?

Probably not. We sell everything from collector's editions of comics to that left over gallon of paint from a home renovation project on the internet. There are sites to sell homemade arts and crafts, (legally) scalp sold out concert and sports tickets, and offer rare treasures like a first edition copy of Paradise Lost. The prices can be a bit high--and the niche market super specialized--but that's the beauty of the internet. Finally, we can shop all over the country, or the world, from the comfort of our own homes. The shopping around has never been so easy: With the click of a finger, you can find a dozen other versions in ten more colors.

The same concept applies to lesson plans. Why should we let the big textbook companies and curriculum developers corner the market? There are surely plenty of smart capable people who don't work for one of them--and could use the extra buck much more, to boot. With sites like Teachers Pay Teachers, an online market for educators, teachers who have perfected a unit on linear equations can share their materials...

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OhioFlypaper

On October 29, the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Frank M. Tait Foundation, and the Fred and Alice Wallace Memorial Charitable Foundation hosted an education forum in Fordham's hometown of Dayton to talk about the state of education in that city as well as Ohio and the nation.?? Our Terry Ryan was a participant in the panel discussion ???Making a Difference: What's Been Accomplished and What Needs to be Done,??? along with Tom Lasley, University of Dayton; Kurt Stanic, Dayton Public Schools; Margy Stevens, Montgomery County Educational Service Center; and moderator Scott Elliott of the Dayton Daily News.?? The following are selected segments of that panel.

Terry Ryan on Data Policies and Availability in Ohio

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??Dayton Education Panel - Terry Ryan on Performance Data and Teacher Evaluation

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