Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ohio Issue 2 - A Proper Redress (Part 3)

[Read Part 1 to see the reasons I believe the reforms in Issue 2 are needed]

[Read Part 2 to see how SB 5 affects safety forces]

In this post I'd like to discuss how Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) if enacted, will affect teachers. As I said in my previous post, there has been tremendous pressure to "support teachers," with the implication that a YES vote on Issue 2 is analogous to disrespecting teachers or being ungrateful for the work they do. In reality, the opposite is true.

SB 5 will affect teachers in significant ways and it's understandable that they would be concerned. In Part 1 of this series, I explained the new requirements for health care (15%) and pension (10%) contributions. For many teachers, this won't be a change at all, since they're already paying these amounts or more. 

The other game-changer in this piece of legislation is the elimination of automatic step-increases for public employees. Instead, they will be evaluated and paid, in part, based upon their performance.  Nearly everyone in the private sector earns raises based upon performance and they're permitted to continue on the job based upon performance. For public employees in Ohio, there are currently step charts dictating exactly how much each employee makes based upon things like length of service and education level. So each year, they receive a predictable raise, whether or not they have performed well.  Good teachers are paid exactly the same as bad teachers. Layoffs are made based only upon seniority. 

In the new system, teachers would be evaluated and compensated based upon the following:
Sec. 3317.13 (B) Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon performance as described in this section: 
(C) For purposes of this section, a board shall measure a teacher's performance by considering all of the following:
(1) The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher holds;
(2) Whether the teacher is a "highly qualified teacher" as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code; 
(3) The value-added measure the board uses to determine the performance of the students assigned to the teacher's classroom; 
(4) The results of the teacher's performance evaluations conducted under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code or any peer review program created by an agreement entered into by a board of education and representatives of teachers employed by that board; 
(5) Any other criteria established by the board
Here's a video that describes how such a multi-faceted system works in the D.C. school system:

See Part 2 and Part 3.

School boards would use evaluations to make decisions about compensation, nonrenewal of employment contracts, termination, layoffs, and professional development.

The first thing to understand is that no salaries are changed by this law and teachers will still be negotiating wages through collective bargaining. The big change is that teachers will no longer be awarded raises just for showing up to work for another year. 

There will be a model assessment framework created by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) and the State Board of Education (SBE). This will be an open and transparent process as SBE meetings are open to the public and all proceedings are subject to Ohio's Sunshine Laws.  Local school boards may use the SBE's model assessment or create their own, based upon the requirements of SB 5. 

Each board, in consultation with teachers, will create an evaluation system that:

(1) Is evidence-based and uses multiple measures of a teacher's use of knowledge and skills and of students' academic progress;
(2) Is aligned with the standards for teachers adopted under section 3319.61 of the Revised Code;
(3) Provides statements of expectation for professional performance and establishes specific criteria of expected job performance in the areas of responsibility assigned to the teacher.
(4) Requires observation of the teacher being evaluated by the person conducting the evaluation on at least two occasions for not less than thirty minutes on each occasion;
(5) Requires that each teacher be provided with a written report of the results of the teacher's evaluation that includes specific recommendations
Each teacher will be evaluated on the following, once each year in April:

The framework shall require at least fifty per cent of each evaluation to be based on measures of student academic growth specified by the department of education. When applicable to a teacher, those measures shall include student performance on the assessments prescribed under sections 3301.0710 and 3301.0712 of the Revised Code and the value-added progress dimension prescribed by section 3302.021 of the Revised Code.
(1) Quality of instructional practice, which may be determined by announced and unannounced classroom observations and examinations of samples of work, such as lesson plans or assessments designed by theteacher;
(2) Communication and professionalism, including how well the teacher interacts with students, parents, other school employees, and members of thecommunity.
(3) Parent and student satisfaction, which may be  measured by surveys,questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback.
Those of you who work in the private sector will likely read these requirements and find them familiar; this is how the majority of workers in Ohio are evaluated for raises and promotions. They certainly don't seem unreasonable. Those of us with children in the public schools would like to know our children's teachers are on the job because they are competent teachers, not merely because they have a degree and a teaching license. 

It's important to understand that "student performance on assessments" is only used as an evaluation method "when applicable." So, for example, it would not be part of the art teacher's evaluation because there is no current achievement test for art. The same for kindergarten. However, there would still be a requirement to measure "student growth" with a "value-added" dimension. For those not familiar with education lingo, this means that rather than a pass/fail system on mandated tests or assessments, the student's growth from year to year is the measure of success.  Who could argue with that?

Here's my take: If you're a good teacher, you're already doing all of this and you have nothing to fear from these reforms. If you're a great teacher, you may even be better-compensated for your efforts. If you're terrified that this new law will punish you in some way, then a little soul-searching is in order. Perhaps you're the reason we need performance pay.

There are a couple other items that might be of interest to teachers (and those who care about them).  The first is the provision that continuing contracts (tenure) will be retained for those who have already attained that status (ORC 3319.1). However, going forward, this will be eliminated. 

The other is a new provision that will ban forced fair share dues to unions. If teachers (or other public employee at a union-represented workplace) decides that they don't want to continue to fund the Ohio Education Association's liberal political agenda - namely funding the Ohio Democratic Party - they can now opt out without being forced to pay fair share dues. 

In most cases, paying fair share dues is the same as paying union does. In either case, the employee still receives union representation in contract negotiations. See here for an example of the differences.  The union bosses hate, hate, hate this provision because they know many people aren't thrilled about about its leaders, who pull in six-figure salaries and run an organization rampant with waste, fraud, and abuse. They know that if given the opportunity, union members will bolt and the money will dry up. But it's great news if you're a conservative teacher and you're tired of being shaken-down for union or fair share dues.

I realize this is a tough sell to teachers. I've heard stories of young teachers who have been pressured at work to sign the petitions and work for a NO on Issue 2. I also realize there's a conflict for some between an ideology of fiscal conservatism and a need to provide for one's own family. In a sense, this is where the rubber meets the road.

If you are a teacher, please understand that we don't all think you're greedy or that you've single-handedly bankrupted the state. We appreciate what you do for our kids. But also please understand that these adjustments you are being asked to make are the same ones we in the private sector have been making for years. Our family's health insurance costs have skyrocketed in recent years to $700/month. 

A couple years ago, Sherwin-Williams, where my husband works, cut back their contribution to his 401K from 6% to 3% due to the economic downturn. While we were disappointed by the reduction, we were glad that it wasn't a layoff notice and glad the company is fiscally responsible - that they haven't had to make layoffs when many other companies have (they reinstated the the full contribution this year).  For that matter, we're grateful that they contribute anything at all.  Many private sector employees don't have retirement funds at all and, like my mother-in-law, will depend entirely on a meager Social Security check in retirement. 

I hope teachers and those who want to support them will consider voting YES on Issue 2. In addition to giving school districts tools to control their budgets and help avert layoffs, it will help to keep and reward the best teachers, which is best for the kids. 

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