Kasich's education proposals on the right track, still leave room for improvement
By Terry Ryan
is an excerpt of public testimony about the education provisions of House Bill
153 that Fordham’s Terry Ryan presented to the House Finance Primary and
Secondary Education Subcommittee on April 8.
You can read his full testimony here.
Schools and teachers matter greatly,
and this is especially true for our neediest and most vulnerable children.
Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who recently testified before a joint meeting
of the Ohio House and Senate education committees, reports that “having a
quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially eliminate the
disadvantage of low socio-economic background.” The stakes are high and
decisions made now will have an impact on our children and their future for
years to come.
I support the education reform goals
and policies in HB153 because they focus on the dual objective of improving
K-12 education in the Buckeye State while helping schools adjust to doing more
with less. It is painfully clear that Ohio, like states across the country, has
to start figuring out how to live within its means. We cannot make education
reform continue to hinge on infusions of more cash – just the opposite. This
“new normal”—as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Bill Gates both term it—has
been staring at us for several years now, but we’ve resisted dealing with it
because of political timidity and one-time federal stimulus dollars.
In December 2008, I wrote an op-ed for
the Cincinnati Enquirer that began:
The dismal economic news for Ohio keeps piling up. State revenues
continue to plummet and economic forecasters are predicting a shortfall of more
than $7 billion for the next two-year budget. The Buckeye State is going to
have to figure out how to do more with less. This is apt to be true for
education, where per-pupil cuts of 10 percent or more are realistic. That much
out of the statewide education budget amounts to nearly a $1.7 billion
reduction for our children.
Ohio is facing historic economic challenges. Lawmakers should seize the
opportunity to not only help the state’s education system make it through the
crisis, but make it through in a way that results in a stronger and more
effective system. Spending less on doing things as usual is a plan for
long-term failure. Now is the time for new thinking and bold action.
I then provided four ideas for trying
to take advantage of tough times to strengthen Ohio’s K-12 system while living
within our means that included:
Fund students, not school districts;
Encourage consolidation of services and innovative partnerships in education;
Make Ohio a leader in distance learning; and
Create a performance-based compensation and sustainable retirement system for
But the state ignored this advice, and
tough decisions that reared their head during the 2009 biennial budget debate
were put off two years thanks to $5.5 billion in one-time federal stimulus
dollars. Worse, former Governor Strickland’s misleading celebration of a
fundamentally-flawed education-funding scheme, which promised billions of
non-existent new dollars for schools over the next decade, made people think we
would somehow have more money for schools in the future, not less.
Teachers and others may be forgiven for feeling like all of the change and pain in HB 153 has come out of nowhere because the state political leadership was largely in denial around the looming fiscal crisis before the start of this year.
So, instead of using the now-ending
federal aid to help set the conditions for making schools work on leaner
rations, the state moved forward for two years with its head in the sand about
the impending fiscal cliff we were racing toward. Teachers and others may be
forgiven for feeling like all of the change and pain in HB153 has come out of
nowhere because the state political leadership was largely in denial around the
looming fiscal crisis before the start of this year. At least now state
government is dealing with reality, and that reality is undeniably tough. Some
recent poll ratings may attest to that fact.
HB153 spreads the unavoidable pain
across school districts in a reasonably equitable fashion. It cuts the poorest
districts less than the wealthier suburbs, thus trying to protect our neediest
children. It cuts public charter school funding by $50 a student but doesn’t
eviscerate them, which is fitting considering how egregiously underfunded they
already are in comparison with their district peers. Most importantly, the
budget pushes reforms that seek to free up school districts to do more with
Not everyone regards greater autonomy
as a sufficient compensation for less money but, as we learned from a recent
Fordham Institute survey of Ohio school superintendents and charter heads,
having the flexibility to allocate available resources in the most educational
efficacious way would be a huge help to otherwise-strapped districts and
the full testimony here.
SB 5 could simply mean business as usual for local teacher personnel policies
By Jamie Davies O’Leary
Much ink and energy already has been spilled over Senate Bill 5,
legislation that places significant restrictions around collective bargaining
for public employees of all
stripes – K-12 teachers, police, fire fighters, and state employees. The New York Times labels it “anti-union”
out that it’s tougher than a similar law in Wisconsin. Opponents of the
bill say it represents an assault on Democrats (literally: “GOP
trying to annihilate opposition, Dems say”); while supporters argue
in compelling fashion that it merely brings into closer alignment what public
employee contracts stipulate and what taxpayers can actually afford.
Given the campaign to seek its repeal
via referendum this fall, Ohioans will be inundated with a lot more coverage of
SB 5 in the coming months.
To be clear, the Fordham Institute does not support all
portions of SB 5, but there are provisions in the bill that are critical for moving K-12 education forward in Ohio, like
eliminating automatic salary increases, ending last in, first out layoffs
(LIFO), and moving health care and pension negotiations outside of collective
Whether SB 5’s reforms are ever fully implemented is
uncertain. The referendum may squash the legislation (assuming it’s successfully
put on the ballot), but lawmakers – anticipating its repeal - may still borrow
language on key teacher personnel provisions and insert it into the governor’s
budget bill or other legislative vehicle. In either case, there are a handful
of provisions pivotal to ensuring that school districts have a fair and
consistent way to determine levels of instructional effectiveness. But even the
best teacher personnel reforms in SB 5 need some improvement.
For starters, while replacing the statewide salary schedule
with district-determined “salaries based upon performance” is a step in the
right direction, SB 5 still preserves pay ranges that are largely correlated
with years on the job and masters degrees. In similar fashion, reductions in
force (RIFs) will no longer be determined solely based on seniority, but the
language that replaces it needs to be stronger. Specifically, SB 5 requires a
local school board to consider five factors when determining “performance,” and
thus compensation and order of RIFs. As
it is written, all of the following
would factor into decisions around teacher pay and layoffs:
of license issued under section 3319.22”
– in other words, whether a teacher holds a resident, professional, senior, or
lead professional educator license. The problem here is that moving up the
licensure ladder requires a minimum number of years in the classroom and
attaining a master’s degree. Thus, SB 5 still rewards seniority and credentials
(though in a more back-door way) regardless of the fact that research shows
both are largely uncorrelated with instructional effectiveness.
Whether the teacher is “highly qualified” – again, this is a proxy for credentials,
degrees, and years on the job and says nothing of a teacher’s actual
measures, where applicable (only reading and math teachers in grades 4-8
would have such data available).
from the teacher’s “performance evaluations” which are improved
dramatically by this legislation. SB 5 requires that evaluations include
“multiple measures of a teacher’s use of knowledge and skills,” include at
least two observations that last not less than 30 minutes, occur annually (the
formal evaluation, not classroom observations), and incorporate student
academic growth (which must make up at least 50 percent of the overall
evaluation). Also folded into evaluation requirements (but districts are free
to determine the weight of each) are things like “communication and
professionalism,” and parent and student satisfaction – which may be determined
through surveys or questionnaires.
other criteria established by the board.”
The teacher (and principal) evaluations described in SB 5
are a marked improvement over the hodge-podge of current evaluations across
Ohio that tend to rate nearly every
teacher as “satisfactory,” but it is unclear how much weight evaluations will
actually receive when it comes to important personnel decisions. The existing
language is silent as to whether districts are free to determine the weight of
each performance variable.
Whether an overhaul of the state's evaluation system happens via SB 5, the budget bill, or some other piece of legislation matters far less than whether Ohio ensures there is strong, clear language that prevents districts from falling back into their old habits....
For example, what if a district gives evaluations a weight
of just 15 percent, and then bases the majority of decisions about pay and
layoffs on “level of licensure,” “highly qualified” status, and “other
criteria”? That district’s salary structure and layoff decisions would closely
resemble the existing system. Further, what happens in instances where each of
these “performance” factors may contradict one another? A young teacher without
a master’s degree – and therefore on a lower tier of licensure – may be more
effective according to his/her evaluation than a “highly qualified” and
credentialed peer, but which one would be laid off first or paid more?
In sum, the language around teacher “performance” is still
murky and threatens to undermine many of SB 5’s best provisions: ending LIFO,
ending automatic pay increases, attempting to install a system of merit, and
streamlining the dismissal process for ineffective teachers. Whether an
overhaul of the state’s evaluation system happens via SB 5, the budget bill, or
some other piece of legislation matters far less than whether Ohio ensures
there is strong, clear language that prevents districts from falling back into
their old habits of rewarding seniority and credentials above all else.
Impact of school improvement initiatives in HB 153
By Emmy L. Partin and Bianca Speranza
Governor Kasich has put a priority on academic achievement
in his inaugural budget proposal with several provisions aimed at improving
Ohio’s lowest performing public schools. There has been much media coverage and
chatter among observers about the broad concepts of these proposals, but little
has been said about the real impact they might have in schools across the
state. Here’s a look at three sets of
proposals and who’d be affected.
Parent trigger & restructuring mandate
Certainly the most talked-about of the
governor’s school-improvement proposals is the creation of a “parent trigger”
for the state’s worst-performing district schools. The proposal has brought
about front-page news stories, strongly worded editorials against the idea,
and public testimony in House hearings on the budget dismissing the trigger as
another assault on public schools.
The provision would allow parents to
petition a school district to force reforms in a school that, for at least
three consecutive years, has been ranked in the lowest five percent of all
district-operated schools statewide based on its performance index (PI) score
(which is a measure of student achievement across all tested grades and
subjects). Parents would be allowed to file a petition requesting the district
reopen the school as a charter school, replace at least 70 percent of the
school’s staff, contract with another school district or entity to operate the school,
turn operation of the school over to the state, or make other fundamental
reforms to staffing and governance.
This is strong medicine for sure.
Similar restructuring has been required for years in failing schools under No
Child Left Behind and is taking place in 42 Ohio schools thanks to federal
School Improvement Grants. But the part
of the parent-trigger proposal that has been missed by almost everyone is how
few schools this law would actually impact.
For example, if the provision took
effect immediately and was based on the previous three years of academic data,
less than one percent of district schools would make the list (29 out of 3,372
district schools that received academic rating data last year, to be exact).
A similar provision would mandate the restructuring or
closure (with similar options as the parent trigger) of district schools that
are also in the lowest five percent of all district buildings based on PI score
for three years and that are rated Academic Emergency or Academic Watch by the
state. Only 23 schools statewide meet
this threshold, based on current data. Almost
half of the schools eligible for the parent trigger or mandatory restructuring
are in Cleveland and the others are scattered across the state’s other big and
mid-sized urban districts.
The part of the parent-trigger proposal that has been missed by almost everyone is how few schools this law would actually impact.
content exams in low-performing districts
The governor believes that lack of content knowledge is a
major factor when it comes to ineffective teachers (and he’s right to an extent
– strong content knowledge is necessary, especially in upper grades and
complicated subjects). The governor has
proposed requiring teachers in the lowest performing districts to take
content-area exams and allowing districts to use the results of the exams to inform (but not exclusively) personnel
decisions about teachers. Specifically,
the proposal would rank all school districts annually by PI score and identify
the bottom 10 percent of districts statewide.
Teachers of core subjects (reading, English language arts, math,
science, foreign language, government, economics, fine arts, history, and
geography) in those districts would be required to retake all of the state’s
teacher licensure exams that are required for the grade and subject they teach
(Ohio currently uses Praxis exams).
Of all of the governor’s school improvement provisions, this
one has by far the widest impact. Using
the most recent available data, the bottom 10 percent of Ohio districts serve
more than 352,000 students and employ nearly 15,500 regular classroom teachers. Assuming for example’s sake that
three-quarters of those teachers teach a core subject more than 11,500
educators would be required to retake at least one exam. Currently, Praxis charges a $50 registration
fee per testing year and $80 for the first test a teacher takes (subsequent
tests cost less). It would cost $1.5 million to administer a single exam to all
of those teachers. The actual cost could
go much higher, as the provision allows teachers to take the exam up to three
times and because the state requires multiple Praxis exams for most licenses.
It’s not clear who would cover this cost; the Legislative Service Commission’s
analysis assumes teachers will pay out-of-pocket.
A closer look at the districts that fall into the bottom 10
percent shows they aren’t all that bad. Four of the districts are rated
Effective by the state, another 47 are rated Continuous Improvement.
Fully 50 of them have a PI score of 80 or better (which indicates that, on
average across all grades and subjects, students in the district are
"proficient" on the state's exams). Thirty-eight districts have
PI scores of 85 or better, and the highest district PI score in the bunch at
Raising the bar to open new schools
The governor wants to improve school quality in the charter
sector, too. While his budget relaxes
many of the barriers to opening new charters in the state, it adds a new
requirement that prohibits sponsors or operators with any schools rated
Academic Emergency or Academic Watch from opening new schools. Some high-performing operators and school
districts would be able to continue opening charter schools under this
provision but they’d have a tough time finding an eligible sponsor to authorize
None of the state’s major sponsors (including the Fordham
Foundation) would be able to open new schools next year. A smattering of districts and ESCs would
remain eligible, but just a handful of them are serious charter school
authorizers. Most oversee small
single-school charter programs within their own districts. Further, geographical restrictions on where
authorizes can sponsor new schools would limit the ability of even these
sponsors to bring on new schools. This
proposal, as written, would effectively put a pause on the growth of charters
in Ohio, for one year at least.
Creating a Winning Legislative Campaign: The Colorado Story
By Jamie Davies O’Leary
What better person to write a case study of SB 191 – Colorado’s groundbreaking
teacher evaluation legislation – than the legislative director for Mike
Johnston, the state senator who shepherded it through to passage? Scott Laband
describes the political, policy, and messaging elements that were essential for
the legislation’s ultimate success:
strong and credible leadership.” Sen. Johnston, a former Teach for America teacher
and principal, had the credentials to lead the charge. Selecting the right
co-sponsors with enough expertise to ward off amendments to the bill’s key
provisions was also crucial.
the policy right.” SB 191 started by “identifying the flaws of the existing
teacher and school leader evaluation system.” It was a pro-teacher piece of
legislation that overhauled several things at once rather than in piecemeal
fashion (evaluations, tenure, placement, and reductions in force – with the
former informing the latter three). Laband also points out the importance of
compromises on non-vital amendments, and “rotating political cover” so that no
single lawmakers had to go against his/her own caucus too many times.
a powerful coalition.” To rally the support necessary to upend a deeply
entrenched teacher personnel system, proponents crafted a concept paper early
on in the process, identified any and all potential partners (including the
civil rights community), and garnered support especially among teachers
themselves. The process for creating the coalition sounds arduous, but the
brief is compelling in describing its necessity.
broad based advocacy.” Chief among advocacy strategies was raising money,
maintaining a strong web presence, and implementing a sophisticated lobbying
the message.” The campaign around SB 191 was unwaveringly pro-teacher, and
framed the legislation as helping solve the problem
of the achievement gap (rather than portraying ineffective teachers as the main
obstruction). Key components of messaging included: polling data, success
stories of students and teachers, dispelling “myths,” and “rewarding
champions,” (DFER raised $500k alone for Democrats who voted for the bill).
That Democrats led the charge to pass Colorado’s SB 191
certainly “defies conventional political wisdom.” That reality alone holds
lessons for the Buckeye State, as lawmakers typically have a hard time breaching
the partisan divide – especially when it comes to K-12 education policy.
It's Easier to Pick ad Good Teacher than to Train One: Familiar and New Results on the Correlates of Teacher Effectiveness
By Nick Joch
How did good teachers become
good teachers? Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson seek to answer this
question in their latest study, wherein they examined several traditional
strategies for teachers to increase their effectiveness, such as pursuing
advanced degrees, on-the-job training, etc. to determine which methods were
successful. To get at this, they investigated student achievement data from all
of Florida’s fourth and eighth graders who took state assessments from
2002-2009, to discern which teachers “added value” (i.e. produced gains in
student achievement), and what enabled teachers to do so. Interestingly, none
of the methods studied significantly improved teacher quality. The most salient
- Advanced degrees were not an indicator of
teacher effectiveness, and obtaining such degrees did not make a teacher
significantly more effective than she was before.
- No Florida public university offers a teacher
preparation program that significantly enhanced the effectiveness of students
completing the program.
- In the first one to five years of teaching,
on-the-job training (years served) increased teacher effectiveness, but after
five years there was no noticeable increase. In fact, effectiveness may
decrease as a teacher’s career progresses.
Considering the sharp debate
surrounding seniority-based layoffs, as well as Ohio’s fiscal problems
(master’s degree pay raises for teachers cost over $400 million annually),
state lawmakers would do well to take note of the results of this study. SB 5
is a step in the right direction on this front as it reduces emphasis on
traditional notions of effectiveness such as credentials, years of service,
etc. Further, although Chingos and Peterson examined only public university
teacher training programs in Florida, a recent Fordham study
shows that teacher training programs across the country, including in Ohio, do
not adequately equip teachers for their profession. Ohio needs to ensure that
teacher training programs at its public universities make a positive difference
in the effectiveness of the teachers they graduate.
An article about this study also appeared
in Education Next. The full text of
the study is available here,
and another version of it was published
in the Economics of Education Review.
Charter School Performance in Indiana
By Andrew Proctor
The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at
Stanford released its latest study of charter school performance, this time
focusing on Indiana. The report follows on CREDO’s 2009 national charter school
study, which found mixed results for charters
nationwide and not-so-stellar results for Ohio charters. Drawing on data from
42 charter schools and 8,959 charter school students in Indiana between 2004
and 2008, researchers developed a comparison methodology that matched students
in traditional public schools with students in charter schools, and compared
the learning growth of the two groups (determined using results from annual
standardized tests). Researchers also measured the impact of attending a
charter school based on the length of time a student was enrolled in a school,
as well as the age of the school.
Learning gains among students in charters were greater when
compared to district peers. The most important finding may be that Black
students in charter schools outperformed Black students in traditional public
schools, and that in math Black students in charter schools were performing at
similar levels to the average white student in traditional public schools. CREDO’s report
on Ohio in 2009 revealed a less positive narrative for charter schools here. In
sum, Indiana charter schools have performed better (compared to traditional
public schools) than Ohio charter schools have. But while these results are
encouraging for the Hoosier State, as their legislature attempts to expand the
state’s charter school program, robust standards must exist to prevent
the authorization and reauthorization of charters with poor performance. This
is an ongoing battle over charter school quality that Ohio knows all too
District of Columbus Public Schools: Defining Instructional Expectations and Aligning Accountability and Support
By Bianca Speranza
When Michelle Rhee took the helm of DC Public
Schools in 2007 the district’s achievement was dismal. NAEP scores for DC’s
students were among the lowest in the nation, and achievement gaps between
white and black students were among the largest in the country. Rhee and her team knew that something had to
change dramatically. This latest case study by the Aspen Institute
describes how Rhee and her team sought instructional excellence in every DC
classroom, by first defining the principles of effective teaching and then
creating a system of evaluation and pay centered squarely on it.
Aspen breaks down Rhee’s overhaul of teacher
personnel policy into three segments: introduction of the Teaching and Learning
Framework (TLF) emphasizing planning, teaching, and effectiveness of teachers;
the creation of IMPACT, a new accountability system to ensure that the criteria
set forth in TLF were carried through; and finally implementation of the
evaluation system in the 2010-2011 school year.
Out of this process came five lessons from which
schools districts across the country can learn, among them: creating common
expectations about what effective teaching consists of,
the need to anticipate that the hardest part of creating a teacher performance
system is helping teachers improve their skills, and that continued development
of organizational capacity is crucial to success. While this story is unique to
DC, states around the country should be forewarned about the challenges of
overhauling entrenched teacher evaluation systems. As Ohio moves forward it
would do well do keep the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from DC in
A selection of the finest offerings from Fordham's blog, Flypaper.
Evaluation of teachers must improve
By Terry Ryan
Effective teachers are the most
valuable education asset that Ohio (or any state) has. Statistics don’t lie
when it comes to their impact on children’s learning. Given how powerfully
teachers can alter students’ life trajectories, it is not only prudent but
imperative to push reforms that enable education leaders to distinguish
effective teachers from ineffective ones.
the full post here, which also appeared as an op-ed in the Cincinnati
A more accurate "TFA teachers are like untrained doctors" analogy
By Jamie Davies O’Leary
The Columbus Dispatch
featured an anti-Teach For America op-ed
by an OSU ed professor (Thomas Stephens). He says nothing surprising to any of
us who’ve heard ed schools’ views of alternative teacher preparation before.
And given that TFA-enabling legislation has already passed, his disparaging of
the program is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But his line of
reasoning is one that drives me so far up the wall that I just can’t help
myself. Bear with me for a moment, and then I’ll shut up about Teach For America
and go back to my work.
Read the full post here.
Dollars and cents: Teacher quality and lifetime earnings
By Nick Joch and Andrew Proctor
- How do teachers impact students’ lifetime
earnings? Eric Hanushek has quantified the answer to this and other questions
related to teacher quality in his recent Education
- Is high-stakes testing hurting our kids? Byong
Man Ahn, former Minister of Education for exam-intensive South Korea, thinks
so, according to this recent Education
Gregory Michie takes a similar tone in his Huffington
as he explores the overuse of the word “innovation” in education. Unfortunately
he misses a key point – improving test scores for “impoverished kids” and
fostering creativity are not mutually exclusive.
Week’s Schwartz, Levin, and Gamoran continue their Future of Education Reform series.
two (of seven) provides education reform recommendations based on
successful policies from countries that are out-performing the United States on
- The latest research on school funding
inequalities comes courtesy of the Center
for American Progress’s Saba Bireda, whose latest report, Funding Education Equitably,
addresses problems with the ESEA’s Title I “comparability provision.” Bireda
identifies loopholes in this provision that result in the rich getting richer
(and vice versa), then proposes some solutions to the inequities she
- Tennessee students can fear no more thanks to
the “anti-bullying” legislation passed in the House this week. Teachers may now protect their students from
“intellectual bullies” who apparently took over education decades ago by including
theories on global warming and evolution in school curriculums. Andy Sher covers the story
in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Event - Are Local School Boards Vital in 21st Century America?
Join Fordham and a crackerjack set of
panelists—including Anne Bryant of the National School Boards Association,
Christopher Barclay of the Montgomery County Board of Education, Chester E.
Finn, Jr. of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Gene Maeroff, author of School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise
in Democracy—on April 26 from 4:00-5:30PM for what proves to be a
lively debate on the future role of school boards. For more event details and information
on how to RSVP, go here.
This event will be webcast live on the Thomas
B. Fordham Institute website. No need to sign up to watch it—simply go to our website at 4 PM
and click on the link provided.