Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ohio to Retest Teachers Under New Law

As soon as next year, approximately 7,000 educators in Ohio's poorest-performing public schools may be required to retake teaching exams under a new law passed by the state.

Math and English teachers who work at schools ranked in the lowest 10 percent of the state will be required to retake and pass Ohio's teacher licensure exams. If the teachers pass, they will be exempt from retaking the test for three years. Each district's school board will have the option to fire teachers who don't pass the test.

Patrick Galloway, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, says the earliest the changes will be implemented is prior to the 2012-2013 school year, and that the criteria for ranking schools is still being developed. Meanwhile, the state's education department is developing a new teacher evaluation system that will be piloted later this school year in certain districts.

Galloway says that by holding schools and teachers accountable for student achievement, underperforming schools will hopefully improve."The whole purpose here is to help our most persistently struggling schools by working to provide the best instructors possible," he says. "We're doing this to lift up those students."

The Ohio law is the most comprehensive state law requiring teacher retesting. The state has aggressively implemented teacher evaluation legislation over the past year, to the chagrin of some teaching groups in the state, who argue that teaching in poorer, urban schools is inherently a tough task.

Galloway says he understands why some educators are pushing back against the law, but that good teachers shouldn't have anything to worry about.

"If you're proud of your performance, you should be able to put it out there and show, 'This is what I'm capable of,'" he says. "We understand there's concern. This is educators' livelihood[s], their passion. But at the same time, we need to make sure we have the best teachers in the classroom."

Teaching advocates say that many of the poorest performing schools are in poverty-stricken areas, which can be the most difficult environments for teachers.

"It's punishing teachers for taking on the toughest job—and will actually discourage good teachers from taking on those jobs in those schools [that] need the best teachers," Mark Hill, president of the Worthington Education Association, a group representing 800 teachers in Ohio, told the Columbus NBC affiliate.


Britain: Free schools good, profit motive better

I went on the BBC News Channel yesterday afternoon defending free schools against the charge that they would lower standards and lead to social segregation.

First, it is worth re-capping what the ‘free schools agenda’ is all about. Essentially, it has two purposes. The main one is to increase the supply of good school places by letting independent providers set up new schools, and receive state funding on a per pupil basis. The idea is that this allows parents to exercise a meaningful choice over where their child is educated. That drives schools to compete for pupils, which increases accountability and drives up standards. The second purpose of the free schools agenda is to give schools greater freedom from bureaucratic interference: let them innovate, let them focus on teaching the child in front of them, and stop thinking the man in Whitehall always knows best.

School choice may be a radical idea, but it isn’t a new one, and it has worked where it’s been tried – most famously in Sweden, that well-known socialist nirvana. Moreover, it is hard to deny that the British education system is in need of serious reform: despite the fact that spending has practically doubled in real terms over the last decade, Britain has tumbled down the international league tables. Academic research has even suggested that 17 percent of British 16-19 year olds are illiterate, while 22 percent of them are functionally innumerate – a shocking indictment of a failing system.

Moreover, the claims made by the critics of free schools do not hold water. They suggest that free schools will promote inequality, but this has not been the experience in Sweden or the US. In fact, American evidence suggests the opposite: that privately operated schools can be better integrated, since attendance is not as closely linked to where one lives as it is in the state sector. Indeed, it is worth remembering that our current schools system is deeply unequal precisely on these grounds – in many cases it amounts to little more than segregation by house price. Live in a nice area, and chances are you’ll get to attend a fairly decent school; live on a sink estate, and you probably won’t be so lucky. Free schools offer an escape route.

At this stage, however, it is worth making a point about the profit motive – which Nick Clegg today ruled out of bounds vis-à-vis free schools. The trouble with not allowing for-profit companies to run free schools is that it dramatically narrows the pool of potential school operators. Fewer new schools will be set up, and those that are established are more likely to be concentrated in relatively affluent areas, where parents have the time and the ability to push for them. By contrast, if we were to allow profit-making free schools, we would get far more of them, and see more of them being set up in deprived areas – where both the demand and the need for them is greatest. Whatever Nick Clegg says, the profit motive in education could easily be a force for social mobility, not against it.

Finally, a point on standards: there simply isn’t any convincing evidence to suggest that free schools will provide a lower standard of education than state comprehensives, or that standards at those state comprehensives will suffer because of the existence of free schools. True, part of the rationale behind school choice is that irredeemably bad schools should go out of business. But that is surely as it should be: a system where good schools can grow and be replicated, and where bad schools are not kept interminably on life support, will lead to standards being driven up across the board.


Australia: Seven Queensland teachers still in classrooms despite sex, violence offences

SEVEN teachers who have committed serious offences are currently teaching in Queensland classrooms. Two committed robberies with violence, while the rest faced court for a range of sexual offences.

The teachers are set to be deregistered under proposed laws but because they weren't sentenced to imprisonment they will be able to reapply for registration. Six out of the seven did not have convictions recorded against them.

The State Opposition has questioned the appropriateness of some of the seven teachers potentially being allowed to teach. It follows legislation introduced into State Parliament which proposes a lifetime classroom ban for any teacher convicted of a serious offence and sentenced to jail.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said the proposed amended legislation would allow those convicted of serious offences but who were not sentenced to imprisonment to gain registration under exceptional circumstances. Their registration would be cancelled automatically and they would have to reapply to teach.

Mr Dick said they would be required to go through a two-stage process to reregister, including an eligibility test and a presumption against their registration when reapplying to the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT).

QCT director John Ryan said that of the seven teachers, four had been charged with carnal knowledge-type offences involving girls aged 10 to 16 years. Three of those offences involved 16 or 17-year-old boys dating back to the late 1960s.

Mr Ryan said six of the seven registered teachers did not have a conviction recorded against them and all of the cases had been reviewed by the QCT, with registration granted under exceptional circumstances.

But opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg raised concerns about those charged with robbery with violence, in particular, still being allowed to teach.

Dr Flegg agreed that if a teacher was not sentenced to jail the case should be decided on its merit. But he said the impressionable nature of children needed to be taken into account and the QCT should err on the side of caution. "I don't think that Queenslanders would be particularly keen to see violent robbers teaching children in a school," he said.

"And I think there is also the potential problem that information, particularly in the modern technological era, is likely to become public information if somebody is holding a position like a teacher, which therefore undermines the authority of that teacher anyway. "Therefore I think (those convicted of) serious violence offences of that nature ... should be looking for careers other than teaching in the classroom."


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