House Ed Committee hears from Fordham and teachers

Last Wednesday, 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.

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