Friday, August 26, 2011

Ohio: Guess Who's Going Back to School--and It Ain't the Kids

Ohio had already enacted major legislation earlier this year in the form of S.B. 5 (bill summary here), which made major changes to provisions regarding teacher contracts and tenure, collective bargaining and strikes, and teacher and administrator compensation. This summer, Ohio also enacted H.B. 153 (bill analysis here), which makes numerous substantive changes in its own right.

One such change is a provision that if a school has been in the lowest 10% of schools according to the statewide performance index, the teachers of core academic subjects at the school must take all written exams required by the state board for licensure for teaching that subject area and grade level. District boards, community schools and STEM schools are permitted to use exam scores in decisions whether or not to continue employing a teacher, although the exam score may not be the sole determinant, unless the teacher has failed to achieve a passing score on the same required exam for at least three consecutive administrations.

This may be the first such policy of its kind in the country. I had a conversation with a colleague about the provision, and he commented that in an age when student test scores are increasingly being incorporated into teacher evaluations (and continuing employment determinations), perhaps this is not the "nuclear option" that it might have seemed to be a couple years ago. It will be interesting to see how this plays out--how many teachers in the lowest-performing schools are let go after failing their licensure exams repeatedly--since the policy does not specify that a teacher must be fired after X number of failing exam scores. As one 2010 study suggests, principals, even when they have the power to do so, are reluctant to fire the lowest-performing teachers, even when they know who those teachers are. Maybe district boards, who have the firing power as the Ohio policy is written, are a different story.

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