Last week, I posted about Governor Kasich’s budgetary plan to require all core subject teachers in low-scoring school districts to take licensure tests. The text of this newly created section of Ohio Revised Code reads as follows:

Sec. 3319.58
(C) Each year, the board of education of each school district in the lowest ten percentiles of performance index score shall require each of its classroom teachers teaching in a core subject area to register for and take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level to which the teacher is assigned under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code.
(HB 153, p 1667-8)

I did not ask the question of WHY the Governor would include such a provision in his budget bill, so I cranked up the research machine in an effort to find out. I’m always optimistic that I will find a rational explanation, and this time was no exception.

Full of hope, my research first led me to the Governor’s Jobs Budget, Blue Book Five: The Reforms Book. On page 7, I found the answer I sought.

Test Teachers in Poor-Performing Schools
What will change
Teachers employed in a school identified in the bottom five percent of the state‘s schools on the basis of student results will be required to take licensure tests.

Why this change is important
Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results. Teachers were tested on the content they were assigned to teach.

Struggling schools need to be sure teachers are competent and fully capable of teaching their assigned curriculum. Testing teachers to be sure they know their content and basic pedagogy is a key step in this process.

Testing will make sure teachers are competent in the subjects they are teaching. Limiting this provision to poor-performing schools will minimize costs and avoid unnecessary burdens on quality schools.

A quick clarification: The Reform Book states five percent, while the language in HB 153 clearly says ten percent. Since HB 153 is the official legislation, we must take this as the expected number. I was unable to locate any documentation that references this change.

Case closed. It became so obvious to me after I read that simple explanation.
“Struggling schools need to be sure teachers are competent and fully capable of teaching their assigned curriculum. Testing teachers to be sure they know their content and basic pedagogy is a key step in this process.”

And as I learned last week, the only thing the Praxis II tests do is “measure knowledge of specific subjects that K–12 educators will teach, as well as general and subject-specific teaching skills and knowledge . . . to ensure that candidates for licensure have acquired the minimal knowledge necessary for entry-level positions.”

Hmm….

Upon closer inspection, those statements did seem to be remarkably similar. Apparently this answer was going to be a little more difficult to find. I wondered if maybe Massachusetts was the key to this puzzle. After all, the Governor’s good book reads, “Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results. Teachers were tested on the content they were assigned to teach.”

On to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

Teachers must demonstrate that they have met subject matter knowledge requirements by taking and passing the appropriate sections of the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure. Pedagogical skills and knowledge are acquired and demonstrated in approved teacher preparation programs.

So what exactly are these Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure?

The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure program was initiated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 1998 as part of our statewide education reform initiative for educators seeking PreKindergarten to grade 12 licenses. The MTEL program includes a test of communication and literacy skills as well as tests of subject matter knowledge. The tests are designed to ensure that Massachusetts educators can communicate adequately with students, parents/guardians, and other educators and that they are knowledgeable in the subject matter of the license sought.

How do I prepare for these tests?

The primary approach to preparation for taking and passing one of the Subject Tests is adequate study at the collegiate level in the content defined by the Massachusetts licensure regulations and other state policies. Candidates should consult with their college advisors before registering to take the tests.

I was stunned. Apparently, since 1998, the entire state of Massachusetts has had a finely tuned licensure process whereby a person has to attend an approved educator preparation program at an institution of higher education, then pass these tests on pedagogy and subject matter before getting an initial 5-year license and obtaining a teaching job.  Ingenious!

So why shouldn’t Ohio follow this revolutionary process?  A response from the superintendent of public instruction for the state of Ohio:

Prior to 1991, candidates for licensure in Ohio needed only to complete an approved teacher preparation program and declare themselves to be free of a criminal record in order to obtain a teaching certificate. Beginning as recently as 1991, candidates have also been required to pass a standardized, paper-and-pencil examination on general knowledge, subject matter knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge (Ohio Department of Education, 1987). Thus, the critical element of quality control regarding public school teaching in many states has been the state’s approval of the college or university teacher education program.

In 1992, Ohio’s State Board of Education voted to revise both the state’s elementary and secondary standards and the teacher education and licensure standards. This action provides Ohio with a new opportunity to build a teacher licensure system based upon what teachers must know, be like, and be able to do to begin teaching.

Under this approach candidates for licensure would receive a restricted license upon successful completion of a preparation program and an assessment of general knowledge, subject matter knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge. This restricted license would allow persons to complete a 1-year residency under the
supervision of a fully licensed teacher. Upon completion of a successful residency and performance based assessment, they would be eligible for full licensure. These new assessments may include institutional evaluations of candidates, multiple-choice examinations, constructed response examinations, portfolios, or performance in real or simulated settings.

Ted Sanders, superintendent of public instruction for the state of Ohio, written and published in 1993.

That’s right — Ohio isn’t doing what Massachusetts is doing because Ohio moved BEYOND that process when revisions adopted in 1992 went into effect in 1998, the same year that Massachusetts was just starting on their current model. Some of you may recognize that 1998 change as the implementation of 2-year provisional licenses and the Praxis III process for evaluating new teachers.

Going even further, at the beginning of the next school year (August 2011), Ohio will be moving forward again with a more intensive 4-year resident educator license for new teachers that includes a mentoring component provided by experienced teachers within the school district.

So I am still left wondering why the Governor would make propose such a change. More from Ted Sanders’ 1993 article:

By restructuring the licensure system to focus on the competencies that are essential for successful beginning practice in schools in the process of change, genuine reform can occur. Schools, colleges, and departments of education will have much greater flexibility in designing effective teacher preparation programs, and prospective teachers will be held accountable for their practical skills as well as their knowledge. With the procedures of accreditation, licensure, and certification aligned in a complementary manner and with the primary focus on the competence of teachers, we can and will conduct the reform that is essential for our public schools and will, in fact, be “professionalizing” our field.
(Theory into Practice, Vol. 32, No. 2, Assessing Tomorrow’s Teachers (Spring, 1993), pp. 100-103)

I apologize if I led you to believe that you would find an answer for John Kasich’s logic here at the end, but I, too, am left with only more questions. Most prominently, I wonder about John Kasich’s fascination with the 1980s — he wants to undo a 1983 collective bargaining law, he had an 80s cover band called the Reaganomics at his inauguration kickoff and now he wants to roll back Ohio’s teacher standards to pre-1987.

If it’s okay with you, I’ll take a pass on rolling back 20+ years of educational research and innovation. Perhaps Kasich should give a shout-out to Ohio every once in a while instead of always shopping out-of-state.

Evangelize!
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  • Mlrp75

    Everyone scratches their head in amazement about the things K suck does and says. There is no secret. He is a numbskull surrounded by lesser numbskulls!

  • dlw

    OK, you have confused me. Mind you, I don’t agree with what Kasich is doing. However, I also don’t understand your post. That section of the bill isn’t changing what teachers in Ohio have to do to get their initial license or any of their following licenses. It’s requiring all teachers in low-performing districts to retest. That’s not rolling back the licensure rules, it’s just adding something new: if you make the mistake of choosing to work in a low-performing district, you’ll now be required to retake the Praxis. Every year.

  • Tpiteo65

    Kasich is like Al Bundy, his fasination with the 80′s is due to his one and only time in high school that someone thought he was cool. That was when he was hung from his schools flagpole by his underware, in his home state of Pennsyltucky.

  • gmild

    The rationale for this action is as stated in his Reform Book – that Mass. has implemented such a program and seen improvement. In 1998, Mass. simply implemented their own version of the Praxis testing program that Ohio decided to put in place in 1987. They do not RE-test their teachers after they have earned their license. If a teacher has already achieved the score necessary to obtain their license, how is RE-testing them going to prove any different? It’s a smoke-and-mirrors tactic with no beneficial outcome.

  • http://twitter.com/jr6020 James Miller

    Ohio had a masterful teacher preparation program instituted under Gov Taft in 2002. Praxis III was an extensive evaluation tool that for 7 years (2002-2009) prepared new teachers for success in the classroom. I should know. I was one of hundreds of Assessors (mostly retired teachers) who were extensively trained to evaluate thousands of teachers over 7 years. And the program worked. Teachers (including private and charters) were judged on 19 criteria within 4 domain areas (planning, teaching, learning, collaboration). Even veteran teachers who were struggling could be and were subject to assessment. Gov Strickland continued the program until the state fiscal crisis ended the program after the 20o8-09 school year. The preparation of teacher candidates under Praxis II in the state universities and their continued assessment under Praxis III within the classroom produced a high number of qualified teachers in Ohio. And poor or ineffective candidates were weeded out. If the current Gov was serious about quality teachers in Ohio Classrooms he would reinstitute Praxis III…Jim Miller, Columbus

  • dlw

    Again, I’m not in support of Kasich’s idea. I see no point in retesting the teachers (nor do I think it’s particularly fair to automatically blame the teachers in low-performing districts). I have no clue what MA does and I’ve no doubt they don’t do what he claims they do. It’s just that you seem to be saying that the retesting is turning back the clock on licensure, that’s where you had me confused. If your point is that what he’s pointing to as justification is just stupid, well, I do have to agree with you there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rj-Walkerstuff/100001620726390 Rj Walkerstuff

    I sort of skimmed the article, but why does retesting teachers for the same licensing standards as when they first got their licenses accomplish anything?

    It seems to me it is effectively punishing those teachers with the greatest challenges.

    Of course, punishment is a prime tool of authoritarian types….

    Might it not be better to improve the working conditions and teaching materials and resources available to those teachers, instead of chasing them away?

  • Anonymous

    I must be missing something, I do not see in the MTEL where it advocates retesting teachers in low performing schools, only that they say a teacher should be tested before they receive a license. Shouldn’t the burden of low performing districts be on the School Board and the Administration as well as the teachers? Isn’t it the responsibility of the boards and the administrators to determine the reason for poor results and address it? How does the State know that the problem is with the teacher? I have subbed in all of the grade levels K-12 and can tell you that if you do that a couple of times, you begin to get an idea of why so many teachers want to retire asap.

  • Anonymous

    I must be missing something, I do not see in the MTEL where it advocates retesting teachers in low performing schools, only that they say a teacher should be tested before they receive a license. Shouldn’t the burden of low performing districts be on the School Board and the Administration as well as the teachers? Isn’t it the responsibility of the boards and the administrators to determine the reason for poor results and address it? How does the State know that the problem is with the teacher? I have subbed in all of the grade levels K-12 and can tell you that if you do that a couple of times, you begin to get an idea of why so many teachers want to retire asap.

  • exfloridateacher

    so has anyone checked with US dept of Ed to see if ohio has violated it’s “race to the top” application and forfitted those millions by chucking required components like stem and research based model requirements? Herr John is just focusing on the past because it’s easier to do rather than create something new to evaluate teachers as required under “race to the top” rules.

  • http://twitter.com/WestParkGuy WestParkGuy

    Is Teach For America going to be excluded from this re-testing? I’m assuming if Kasich gets his way, Teach For America people are going to be sent to these lowest performing school districts. I’m not sure they are qualified to pass these tests.

    Also, it says lowest performing school districts? Are Charter Schools part of a School District? If not, where are their re-testing requirements or does the state just revoke their license if they don’t meet performance standards?

  • publichealthgirl

    If HB 153 is stating that teachers in low performing districts will be required to take the praxis every year, is there any talk of how this will be paid for? Is king john suggesting that we require already underpaid teachers to pay for the praxis? For the praxis I alone the cost is $130-180 for registration + test fee, let alone if an educator needs to also take the praxis II. I am assuming this would be an extra cost added on to the continuing educaiton teachers are required to take anyway, right? Yep, this is a policy that is going to ensure that qualified teachers will want to flock to struggling districts. I would like to see kasich pay for and take a test (he’s arealdy passed) each year to prove he is qualified to do a job he has an education for and has already been doing. This is just going to make sure that struggling districst keep on struggling. When will these idiots learn that student performance has so much more to do with enviroment in the home and community as well as poverty and food security than it does an individual teacher’s performance? This is one more thing about kasich, teabaggers, and the gop in general that just makes me sick.

  • Anonymous

    Hi James:

    I did not know that Praxis III was halted in 2008-2009. Wow. So new teachers no longer have to assemble a portfolio and be observed by an assessor to pass Praxis III in their first year of teaching?

    What are they doing instead? Nothing? And it was simply a budgetary decision?

    This is a big loss for Ohio’s teaching system, in my opinion. I teach as a second career, so I have not been in the profession for too long, and I still remember vividly my Praxis III assessment. I believe it was in January of my first year, and although a bit nerve-racking, it was a very positive experience. It forced me to keep solid records (parent contacts, student feedback, reflection on how my classroom was working or not working), type out my lesson plans, assemble unit binders, etc.

    It makes for a busy/stressful first year, but I must say I still turn to that big fat binder of anxiety for ideas. It is a great tool for any teacher. It’s a shame it no longer happens. The retired teacher who assessed me was extremely helpful and kind. Just talking to her allowed me to discover methods I never would have discovered on my own. She was great.

    If Kasich wants to boost the teaching ranks, it would be so simple to reinstate this program. We already have the framework. But it’s clear he is more focused on unfunded mandates and punishment and gutting public schools — making it all about John Kasich — than he is on actually improving teacher quality.

    Maybe we can tell him to reinstate the Praxis III, but call it the “Kasich Initiative To Protect Children From Teachers.” Maybe then he’d go for it.

  • Anonymous

    He does have a creepy fondness for the 80s. He must have been getting laid a lot then. Or maybe that’s when the plumbing still worked.

  • gmild

    The new 4-year resident educator program will be even more intensive and supportive than the Praxis III was. It should truly be a next step in helping new teachers get off to a great beginning.

    http://www.ode.state.oh.us/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx?page=3&TopicRelationID=515&ContentID=67249&Content=103243

  • gmild

    In order to qualify for an Ohio license, the TFA corps members will need to pass the Praxis (part of the legislation that recently passed). There should be nothing to exclude them from this requirement other than the fact that the majority will drop out prior to needing to fulfill the requirement to re-test.

    Charter schools are not a part of the school district and are specifically not included in the language in the budget bill.

  • http://twitter.com/jr6020 James Miller

    Under Ted maybe. But with Kasich running the show l am doubtful. And how the hell can the 4 year resident program reach the number of teachers Praxis III did with much less funding available today? Praxis WAS successful. When all the voucher and charters are exempted from any meaningful evaluation tool (Brennan and company hated Praxis) your contention will ring hallow…

  • gmild

    I definitely should know by now to start every post of with “If Kasich doesn’t screw it up . . . ”

    The 4-year program essentially expands the Praxis III process to provide mentorship over the entire 4 years in a district. Another improvement should be that the mentor(s) will be within a district (or consortium of districts) and should be able to provide in-district experience and support for the full length of time.

    I absolutely agree with you about the success of the 2-year provisional license and, knowing educators involved in the creation of this process, truly believe it can be even better. The lessons learned through the 2-year licensure process haven’t been lost, I think they’ve been enhanced. Only time (and monetary backing) will tell for sure.

    And only if Kasich, and his handpicked school board, and his hand-picked replacement for state superintendent, and his Republican legislature, and whatever other cronies I’ve overlooked . . . . only if they don’t screw it up.

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