What Are Public School Educators Actually Saying About Education Policy?
“How have the recent changes in state education policy influence your classroom and your school?” I asked this one simple question to teachers, principals, superintendents, and school staff, across all six counties in my District 7 State Board Area.
I wanted to learn directly from classroom teachers and other public school educators how the recent changes in state education policies were influencing their classrooms and schools.
These public school educators responded enthusiastically and candidly.
Many told me that no one was listening to them.
If we are to make sound policy decisions, shouldn’t we be listening to those that are most affected?
Here is what I learned.
The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System — Using test score growth to evaluate teachers.
Teachers: My classroom is micro managed, I lost my innovation and creativity, and my students are just a test score. We just do test prep not real teaching. Testing does nothing to improve teaching and it weakens relationships with my students. My students are missing a well-rounded education.
After 25 years of teaching, I want to quit.
Superintendents and principals: It takes 25 hours per teacher for walk throughs, conferences, classroom observations, post conferences, and precise paper work. “Value-added” sounds good, but there aren’t effective ways to gather that evidence. Testing narrows the curriculum to just math and reading. Constant testing drives out emphasis on music, art, extracurriculars, and even science and social studies. Changing ODE mandates and timelines causes students to lose out on instructional time.
My school has to give up teaching days for test days.
Teacher Advocates and Union Leaders: Testing makes collective bargaining long and drawn out in order to fairly evaluate all teachers within different rules for testing and non-testing grades. Changing the role of seniority, especially for layoffs, is quite contentious. Teachers are unable to have peace of mind about their job security.
Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents: The rubric for observing good teaching is well thought-out and specific.
Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents: Professional conferences between principals and teachers are a highlight. Teachers have the opportunity to examine their classroom strategies in a supportive atmosphere.
Proliferation of for-profit online charter schools
Superintendents: Higher property wealth districts must use levy approved funds to send to for-profit charter schools. Online charter schools drains hundreds of thousands of tax dollars from all public school districts even without brick and mortar charters.
Intervention Specialists: Returning students often need extra help as they have learned little; it’s easy to use Google to find the answer and submit it online for credit.
Principals: There is an uneven playing field in terms of transparency, teacher evaluation, and accountability.
Superintendents: For-profit online charter schools use public funds for marketing and advertising (often with seductive and misleading statements).
Principals: Charter schools are possibly a good fit for extremely motivated students or students who cannot function in a traditional public school.
3rd Grade Reading Guarantee
Principals and Teachers: Mandated credientialism tarnishes teachers’ credibility — less focus is placed upon the results of teaching.
Teachers and Curriculum Specialists: There is a lack of funding for personal attention needed to support struggling students.
Principals: Forced reorganization of staffing and reassignment of students decreases our autonomy and independence.
Curriculum Specialists: There is no research base for not promoting students who do not meet the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee.
Teachers and Intervention Specialists: Mandated interventions focus attention on weak readers.
Teachers and Principals: Parent conferences heighten the importance of parent engagement for better reading.
Children with disabilities are placed on a vocational education track
Special Education Teachers: Students thrived in hands on environment with fewer academic mandates.
Special Education Teachers: Academic mandates for earning vocational credentials creates a major obstacle for students with disabilities.
Special Education Teachers: Test score mandates impede enthusiasm for teachers to have children with disabilities in their classes.
New four year residency program for new teachers
Principals: Conceptually a good idea for a more thorough entry process that is as precise and clinical as other professionals.
Teachers and Principals: Teachers feel valued with face-to-face support takes place.
Teachers: ODE is a faceless mandated bureaucracy with no feel for classroom teachers.
Teachers and Curriculum Specialists: Videotaped lessons and student computer generated tests create a “Big Brother” atmosphere of distanced observation; little support is offered and there is no improvement in teaching.
Teachers: Videotaping lessons repeats undergraduate requirements.
Michael Charney’s Policy Recommendations
Ohio is moving the wrong way in micro managing classroom teaching through test driven evaluations and the massive expansion of low performing for profit online charter schools. These polices are ideologically driven by policy makers who know little of the educational research and are interested in attacking, not supporting, the teaching profession and public education.
And actually they do little to improve teaching and learning or supporting the vast majority of students attending public schools.
To reverse these policy disasters Ohio policies should:
Decouple all testing from high stakes for teachers, school, school districts and students. Yes, give assessments to support better teaching but eliminate the stakes so teachers can make good classroom decisions absent from test prep narrow teaching. This delay and decoupling is especially important for the emerging Common Core tests which are designed as Jeb Bush notes, “To awaken the public to the failure of public education and replace that support for private alternatives.”
Replace a test-centric classroom and school direction with massively increasing the opportunity and time for teacher collaboration about teaching strategies, classroom visits, facilitated debriefing, and university connections to examine how teacher collaboration with each other actually improves teaching. Apply per pressure to improve low performing teachers.
Drastically increase the accountability of for-profit online charter schools. Focus on transparency, the use of taxpayer dollars, the curriculum and teaching and level the playing field for mandates and accountability.
Eventually promote charter schools that offer programs, curricula, and teaching not found in traditional schools. There are no reasons for the state to support the same approaches as traditional public schools, especially since so many charter schools perform so poorly. Support creativity, innovation, and parent, teacher and community ownership, but not the present model of well marketed and well packaged but poor performing charters.
Akron Beacon Journal prints persuasive letter to the editor about Charney's candidacy — points to experience and expertise
Prepared For The State School Board
I am starting my 29th year of teaching in the Akron Public Schools. During that time, I have witnessed what seems to be a growing number of individuals who would like to pin many of society’s ills on the public schools. Nobody would deny that challenges exist.
Michael Charney understands the complexities of the issues. A candidate for the State Board of Education in District 7, he would be a champion for public schools.
After meeting Charney, I felt compelled to respond to the Aug. 25 letter “An effective state school board member.” The writer praised Charney’s opponent, incumbent Sarah Fowler.
Fowler has never set foot in a school as either a teacher or a student (she was home schooled). This is not an indictment of Fowler. After reading her biography, she seems nice. I would probably ask her to speak to my economics class on her entrepreneurial accomplishments. However, she does not have the necessary knowledge or experience to fully understand the workings of our state educational system.
Approximately 92 percent of Ohio’s students attend public schools in our state. Charney does not deny the right of parents to choose other alternatives; however, he does insist that charter schools of various stripes be accountable for your tax dollars.
Charney’s credentials speak for themselves. As a responsible voter please access his website, charney2014.com, and other objective appraisals, and see for yourself.
Priorities For Education Policy
1. Listen to the expertise of classroom and school educators to define classroom life
2. Focus on the literacy life of three- and four-year-olds 3. Regulate on line charter schools so that public school districts do not lose hundreds or millions of dollars
4. Promote public education — not the privatization of public schools
5. Emphasize arts, music, extracurricular activities and physical education as well as career and college ready preparation
6. Use the insights of motivated high schools students to help their peers who fall behind
7. Raise the minimum wage