Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan called for several large
reforms to fill an $8 billion hole in the state budget, but it appears teachers
are facing the brunt of Kasich’s larger changes. Aside from cutting funding
statewide for K-12 education, the plan mandates a reform not seen by educators
in any other state: required licensing tests for already-employed teachers at
schools ranking in the lowest 10 percentiles of Performance Index (PI) score
The PI of a given school is measured by its students’
achievement and Ohio General Test (OGT) test performance for grades 3 through 10. Schools with the lowest PIs (the scale ranks from 0-120) are designated on
“Academic Watch” or “Academic Emergency,” which suggests that an overall
student population is not meeting the state’s performance expectations. Core subjects examined include reading,
English language arts, math, science, government, economics, history, fine arts,
foreign language and geography. The next state report cards to monitor PI will
be released in August. Find old report cards here.
Kasich says that re-testing teachers is a way to hold
them more accountable for their performance and help school administrators
highlight ineffective teachers for removal. Those who oppose the reform say
Kasich is placing too much weight on the teachers, when other factors in
performance include community, family life and the students themselves.
PACE High School, a charter school focused on dropout recovery in Bond Hill, is
one of several Cincinnati schools ranking in that bottom 10 percent,
meaning it will fall under Kasich’s mandate.
PACE achieved a 20.9 percent graduation
rate during that 2009-10 school year, which nearly doubled since 2007-08
year, when rates sunk to 10.9 percent. Still, every teacher at PACE will face re-licensing.
“If this testing is supposed to somehow automatically make
our schools better, I don’t get that,” says Steven Hawley, Executive Director
at PACE. "I know what it is politically — to look good. They think there must be some reason why these kids can't succeed."
Historically, Hawley says, schools with student populations of higher socioeconomic statuses and different demographics rank higher. And he has a point — schools with high performance index rates around Cincinnati include Mariemont City Schools, Indian Hill Exempted Village and Lakota Schools.
The Ohio Department of Education's State Report Card system compiles data from every school in a given district to create a district report card. PACE's Performance Index score in in 2010-11 school year was at 40.4. Cincinnati Public Schools earned an 87.3. Hawley insists PACE is full of wonderful kids, but that they're extraordinarily needy. Students come to PACE years behind schedule, he says.
“Gov. Kasich is all about the ‘American dream,’ ” Hawley says.
“Most of our kids don’t even know what the American dream is."
“There’s very little opportunity for people to have
meaningful dialogue to talk about why [schools like PACE] aren’t succeeding. ... I’d
invite the governor to live in the inner city. If we’re all going to be
measured the same, we’re all going to live the same,” Hawley says.
It’s still unclear whether the
state of Ohio would pay for the tests or have districts and charter schools
fund the testing, but the Ohio Education Association Teachers’ Union expects the
tests to cost around $2.1 million to administer to about 6,000 teachers across