Thursday, January 28, 2016

OH: Opt Out Under Attack [Update]

UPDATE: Courtesy of Board Member Wagner in the comments below:

UPDATE: OEA spoke with the primary sponsor of the bill that contained the provision to penalize educators who suggest opting-out as a possibility, Representative Kimberly Roegner. Roegner agreed to completely remove that provision from the bill in question, House Bill 420. Apparently she and others on the education committee have realized that this provision went way too far, was ill considered, and should have received more thoughtful consideration before being placed in the bill.

My thanks go out to all of you, including Crumudgucation, who joined into the collective voice that changed the minds that needed to be changed. My thanks go out to Representatives Roegner and Brenner, chair of the House Education Committee, for being open to our message. 


Here's what the original fuss was about.

Word came from a high-ranking official through Facebook today that somebody is gunning for those mean old Ohio Opt Outers.

The vehicle is Ohio House Bill 420, a bill "to amend sections 3302.01 and 3302.03 of the Revised Code to prohibit the Department of Education from including students who 'opt-out' of state assessments in calculations of certain grades in the state report card and to declare an emergency."

But that title sounds like a Good Thing, right. In fact if we look at some of the specific changes, we find versions of this language:

any student to whom a district or school is required to administer an assessment under section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code, but who chooses not to take the assessment, shall not be included in the calculation of the district's or school's grade under division (B)(1)(b) of this section.

In other words, students who opt out of the Big Standardized Test (still PARCC, in Ohio's case) will not be counted against their school's state rating.

However, the bill is listed as still in committee, where apparently the following language has been tacked on as an amendment:

“No employee of a school district or public school shall negligently suggest to any student, or parent, guardian, or custodian of that student, enrolled in the district or school that the student should choose to not take any assessment prescribed by section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code.” Violation of this law is termination, loss of license, and a criminal record. 

That's right. Tell your students or any of their friends and family that you think opting out might be a good idea, and you would lose your job, your license, and your clean record. Post a complaint about PARCC on the book of face, and you are in the slammer. Testify before a government agency that you think the PARCC is a big fat waste of time, and you could be an unemployed lawbreaker.

Word of this astonishing (and probably illegal) amendment slipped out courtesy of Ohio Board of Education member A. J. Wagner. We've met Wagner before-- he's the board member who led a small revolt when Ohio tried to cut special area requirements for elementary schools. And he shared a few thoughts about this move on his Facebook page which I am sharing now with his permission.

So, a teacher who says on Facebook, “These tests aren’t helping our kids;” a janitor who reports to his neighbor what he heard in the teacher’s lounge about the waste of time these tests are; a superintendent who honestly says to the PTO president who challenges the tests, “I’m only doing this because the state makes me do it, this doesn’t help your children;” a principal who testifies to a legislative committee that the tests are damaging our schools; a counselor who says to a parent of an anxiety ridden child on the verge of a breakdown, “The testing pressure is too much for her;” a parent who works in the cafeteria and opts her son out of the tests; a school board member who votes for a resolution condemning the tests; all of these risk losing their job and can end up with a criminal record. 

“Silence them!”
“Stop them before the public finds out what we’re doing!”
“Ruin their lives before they ruin our political careers with the truth!”

Let’s review.
 

• These tests have had no real value, at least not to student performance. They have tremendous value to testing companies.
 

• They cost a lot of tax dollars taken from your house budget and given to testing companies rather than classroom instruction.
 

• They cost significant time. Last year teachers in Ohio spent as much as 8% of their classroom time on tests.
• They cause needless, harmful angst in children who understand the high stakes placed on the outcomes.
 

• They cost schools the loss of good, experienced teachers, especially schools in poor communities where teachers are blamed for the poor performance of kids who come to school, hungry, stressed, sick, and beaten.
 

• They cost discouragement and hopelessness in impoverished communities whose houses are vacant as parents move, when they can, because they’ve been told, falsely, that their schools aren’t any good.
 

• They are telling us that our kids are stupid when they’re not. If the scores from last year’s tests are believed, about two-thirds of Ohio’s kids are not on track for college or a career. That’s not true. But just in case you don’t get the message, standards are being raised for next year’s test to make that point more emphatic. TWO OF THREE OHIO KIDS ARE TOO DUMB TO GO TO COLLEGE!
 

• These tests aren’t timely. More than half the school year is gone and we still don’t have final scores on last year’s tests! What is a parent or teacher supposed to do when they find out, in late February, that Junior didn’t do so well? Send him back a grade?
 

• Education Week has moved Ohio from a state ranking of 5 to a ranking of 23 in the past two years. Ohio hasn’t seen a meaningful increase in NAEP scores in more than a decade. Last year’s NAEP scores for Ohio moved us down.
 

• The test results are used to terminate local control by firing elected school boards and allowing outsiders appointed by outsiders to take control of our schools. They are not just burying the constitution; they are ending democracy.

If you are an Ohioan who cares about education, you might want to send Wagner a little message of support. And if you're employed by a school district, feel free to share this post-- but do it soon, because before you know it, spreading this kind of dissent and disagreement could cost you your job.

Coercion, force, threats, and more threats-- this is what it takes to get people to go along with the PARCC. You would think that legislators and policy makers might ask themselves why exactly PARCC has failed to win hearts and minds. but no-- instead, we'll just force people to shut up about it at gunpoint. Good luck with that, Ohio.

8 comments:

  1. That is already law in Utah. Teachers can lose their licenses if they even suggest opting out. Which means that although it is legal to opt out in Utah, most parents have no idea that they can opt out. I was even told that my own children could not tell their friends about opting out, lest it come back to me.

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    Replies
    1. Wait, we live where? and in what decade? This sounds like more like communist Russia, back in the day. We are truly going backwards in this, once advancing, country.

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    2. I believe it's the same in DE where I know a teacher. Opt out allowed, but teachers not able to speak of it.

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  2. My guess is that it would be very informative to "follow the money." Look at who serves on the legislative committee in question and check to see who contributes to their campaigns, pays for their junkets, meals, etc.

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  3. UPDATE: OEA spoke with the primary sponsor of the bill that contained the provision to penalize educators who suggest opting-out as a possibility, Representative Kimberly Roegner. Roegner agreed to completely remove that provision from the bill in question, House Bill 420. Apparently she and others on the education committee have realized that this provision went way too far, was ill considered, and should have received more thoughtful consideration before being placed in the bill.

    My thanks go out to all of you, including Crumudgucation, who joined into the collective voice that changed the minds that needed to be changed. My thanks go out to Representatives Roegner and Brenner, chair of the House Education Committee, for being open to our message.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Teachers may not like this but the Supreme Court has already ruled in Lane v Franks about the limitation of free speech rights of public employees acting in their official capacity:

    "On June 19, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided
    an important First Amendment case concerning the free speech rights of government employees.1 While public employees speaking as citizens on issues of public concern have the same right to freedom of speech as other citizens when they speak on matters of public concern, the Court has held that when they make statements pursuant to their official duties, they must accept certain limitations on their freedom of speech."

    http://digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2645&context=lawreview

    It's pretty clear that one of the official duties of teachers is to administer tests arranged by the States and required under ESSA.

    It's also worth noting the difference between Lane v Franks and Friedrichs. In Friedrich's, the questions of areas such as teacher compensation, sick days, etc. are not part of a teacher's duties (but rather the consideration for those duties). More important than this distinction is the question of whether an individual employee's free speech rights can be constrained by a majority of employees' choices - or their chosen representative (the union) ? In other words, the special rights to constrain certain kinds (but not all) free speech in Lane v Franks are given to the employer NOT to an intermediary such as a union (which is NOT the employer).

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  5. We need people like Wagner here in NY.

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