Eye on Education

The Scoop on Kasich’s Education Policy Proposals

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Governor Kasich discusses the Race to the Top grant at a press conference.

Yesterday, Governor Kasich said everywhere he looks in Ohio he finds something else to fix, so it’s no surprise that his mid-biennial budget review read like a laundry list of proposed policy changes on energy companies, banks, taxes, etc.

Many of the items on that list also touched on Ohio’s schools.

Educators like to say third grade is the age at which students stop learning to read and start reading to learn. That mantra might have inspired Governor Kasich’s third grade reading guarantee.

The program would monitor students’ reading abilities, and require an intervention if they aren’t reading at grade level.

In fact, Kasich says if students get to third grade and fail the state exam, they won’t be moved on to the fourth grade.

Kasich says, “that is doing the children a disservice, that is doing the parents a disservice.”

About 12 years ago, Ohio tried to launch a similar program for fourth graders that never made it into classrooms.

Piet Van Lier, an education policy researcher with the left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, says at the time the Ohio Supreme Court found that program to be an “unfunded mandate.”

Van Lier says “not much came from [that program] so how is this going to be different?”

Other ideas from the governor include changing the way schools are evaluated to a letter grade system instead of the 26-point metric used now.

Kasich says the idea there is that he wants “parents to understand exactly how their schools are doing and at the same time we intend to raise the standards.”

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also a part of Ohio’s Race to the Top waiver application.

Schools that serve dropouts would also get a new system of assessments, and all early childhood programs would have to be graded too.

The mid-term budget also proposes expanding blended – that is mixing in-class lectures with online courses.

Kasich is also taking another stab at changing the way teachers are evaluated.

Last year, the state introduced a new system that relies heavily on student performance.

This year, his new idea is to let teacher evaluations be done by credentialed third parties, someone completely outside the school, to perform some of those performance reviews instead of peers and school officials.

That’s not going over so well with the unions.

Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, says she actually found herself agreeing with much of what Kasich had to say. She’s on board with the reading program and the push for more digital education, for example.

But she does not support the new teacher evaluations, especially if done by someone who doesn’t work with the teachers on a regular basis.

“What aggravates me is we say these evaluations are important – and I believe they’re important – but at the same time our administrators don’t have the time to do it,” Cropper says. “If they’re that critical we need to make sure they’re done properly, that we’re not just outsource them for somebody else to do but that we make it a priority for our administrators or for other people within our schools.”

Kasich also used his mid-budget review to make a pitch for the new Cleveland Transformation Plan, which could set precedent for school districts statewide. The plan includes sharing tax dollars with charter schools and replacing seniority with performance pay, among other things.

The governor hasn’t spelled out how or whether he’s going to fund these initiatives, a source of concern for some folks. But C. Todd Jones of the Ohio School Board says not all policy has to come with extra cash.

Jones says, “any school district that does not continually look for ways to reduce costs and save money and allocate it in other ways is either not operating effectively or is not honest about its finances.”

Kasich did include some dollars and cents in his budget review. Ohio’s colleges and universities are getting the $400 million they requested for construction projects, plus $675 million for K-12 construction.


  • David

    Ideas on Kasich Transformation Plan

    Competition, Cooperation, and Cost effectiveness


  • wenken

    This man seems determined to destroy public schools in the state, one way or another.

  • Duckmonkeyman

    Teachers don’t mind being evaluated as long as it is accurate and fair. Having an ex- gym teacher judge an AP calculus teacher is simple silly. Also, classes vary, lessons vary. You can’t pump math into kids everyday with 100% success. Even the best teachers have terrible days. What’s more important is an aggregate trend of performance and not a twice a year snapshot as the governors simple minded plan extols. If Kasich really wanted to help the schools, and most teachers doubt his true motives, he would quit demonizing educators and reducing their pay to minimum wage and focus on what the voters elected him to do – get good jobs into the state.

    • M_Bloom

      Curious:Do you mean that a school’s aggregate trend of performance is what’s important? Or the performance trend for a class of students? And how do you measure that trend?

      • Duckmonkeyman

        I prefer aggregation at a school level as far as composition of who is evaluated. The extreme of measuring individual performance might work in commissioned jobs like sales but if you look at some very good studies, Vanderbilt POINT for one, it is a best ineffective for teaching. Even in other professions teamwork is incentivized with stock options, profit sharing, shared bonus pools. Having the experience of both private industry (three startup efforts) and teaching (3 years), collaboration lead by master teachers is what will succeed, not every person for themselves.

        You ask a second question on measurement. We have to agree that teaching, like programming, research, medicine, law, is still very much an art and trying to engineer teaching and reduce it to simple numbers is dishonest to the public. I have problems with value add because 1) it is proprietary and not subject to rigorous peer review, 2) so complex and obscure those being judged have no idea how to personally affect the outcome. It becomes a useless and arbitrary measure. If we are going to destroy the lives of veteran teachers who have given their lives to the profession and encourage the “best and the brightest” to enter the field we need a fair and accurate measure. Also a fatal flaw is the overemphasis on inane testing. Measuring a year’s worth of teaching effort by a two hour test is like judging the best doctors using patient waistlines.

        So what to do? First stop the hysteria. Not all schools are alike. I don’t have the stats, but I would bet many of the top public schools are easily superior to China, Germany, and even Finland. We should break down rankings to reveal that. Second, talk to and listen to teachers not polititians and billionaires. Most teachers I know don’t object to evaluations. But they should be frequent, accurate, and objective. Master teachers are better qualified to judge than an administrator who hated the class room or a paper pusher from the state. Rather than mindless tests, we should use portfolios of work, frequent observations, teacher panels, objective reviews. Theoretically, if we recruit the best as professionals, evaluations need not be puntative but useful development tools. Finally, look at what works and let teachers experiment. The GOP hates references to Finland but it is working and not “market based” and test driven. In Worthington, teachers were allowed to develop the Phoenix school and now there is a waiting list every year.

        Sadly, politics and austerity are trumping common sense and investment. I hope Ohio wakes up soon.

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