The reason we do this

The reason we do this
A walk with the Coys

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ohio HB176 establishes the Massachusetts Pre-Common Core Standards for Ohio. This is a good thing, let me explain...


I do not support mandated universal standards.  As someone who strongly supports local authority, liberty and freedom of individuals, the arguments for mandated, universal standards fall short.

In light of this, I have gathered some of the most common questions about the proposed standards under HB 176 and hope you leave feeling like you have gained a new or deeper perspective on the intended use of universal standards.  Lets first focus on:

What "exactly" does the bill say about state standards?
Why support a bill that has Ohio adopting state standards?
What is so fantastic about Massachusetts Pre-Common Core Standards?
What are the Massachusetts Pre-Common Core Standards ?

Starting with what House Bill 176 says about the standards.  From the Analysis provided by Legislative Services:


The analysis says that the State Board of Education is prohibited from adopting standards that were created in any similar fashion to that of the Common Core standards. However, it goes on to say that the academic content standards are to be replaced with standards that are "consistent with the standards adopted by Massachusetts prior to the adoption of the Common Core Standards".   The insightful nature of this bill is evident in the next bullet point from the analysis: "A school district is not required to utilize all of any part of the academic content standards adopted by the State Board." 

If the school districts are not required to adopt the state standards, why then, would I support a bill that has Ohio adopting state standards?  I support state standards because we all need a role model in our lives.   Sometimes we can strike out on our own and successfully conquer the world!  Other times, we could use a role model to look up to and to use as the gold standard in which we measure our own lives.  If House Bill 176 becomes law, then school districts will need to look at what they are currently doing and make a decision in regards to their curriculum.  This is an exciting opportunity, but mentorship in adoption of standards may be needed.

This "mentor" or "roll model" in our example is the Massachusetts state standards.  Prior to the adoption of common core, they had positioned Massachusetts into the top academic ranking in the nation.  However, like with any crucial part of our educational system, I encourage you to look at the standards.   With 14 years of teaching experience in a variety of middle school and high school science courses, I was curious how the science standards were structured.  I have read through the science standards, and feel they are very complete. They are linked below.

I predict that most schools will maintain their current curricular maps for a year to review what the recommended standards entail, along with other ideas brought to the local boards of education.  Some schools may decide to switch over entirely to the Massachusetts standards, some will incorporate portions of the recommended standards, some will use something different, and others may continue with their current standards at this time.   As schools begin to hone in on what works best for their kids, other districts may feel emboldened to try something new.  The big difference this time around is: this something new is driven by the community members, local school board and educators!

The act of the State Board of Education adopting a set of standards is, at this time, conforming with federal law.  However, even if the federal law did not require states to have established a state wide curricula, it is still a good idea.  If a school district is looking to change what they are doing because they desire a positive change, then they will have exemplar standards to guide them. 

I have touched on all of the questions we started with, but there has been a vocalized concern on one more aspect.  If school districts are permitted to choose their own standards, then what stops them from omitting entire concepts because of a community belief system, misinformation or other reason?  How do we ensure that our districts are educating our young people to be well-rounded citizens that have a deep appreciation for their world, life and liberty?   We will have to TRUST our citizens to elect local school board members who represent the value system of the community, their passion for truth in knowledge, their appreciation for the arts and literature and the understanding of RIGHT and WRONG.  The time for local control and variety in how we choose to educate our children is going to become a reality, a beautiful, liberty-full, citizen building, teacher restoring reality.  

In my classes, I love teaching students about natural selection and how nature works well with genetic diversity to allow life to continue to flourish, even as environmental conditions may change.  When a species becomes too genetically homogeneous, it struggles to stay ahead of predators and parasites.  Our educational system is similar in this way.  If we provide the means for districts to expand the learning diversity, then Ohio will be well situated to thrive in a diverse social and economic environment.  When we accomplish this, there is no limit to the success we will experience as the great state of Ohio.  

What can you do to help House Bill 176 move forward? Please take a few moments and familiarize your self with the bill, and then contact your Ohio State Representative and share your support of HB 176 and ask them to do the same.  Thank you!

Below are links to the analysis of HB176, the Ohio Statehouse to locate your legislator's contact information, and links to the Massachusetts state standards prior to common core.  I also linked to my discussion on Teacher Evaluations now, and under HB176 for your reference.

We can do this! We can be the change! Please join me and lets #passHB176

-Nicki

Link for the Analysis of the bill:


How to identify and contact your state representative:

Link to the full HB 176



Links for the Massachusetts State Standards:

Science:

Social Studies:

Math:

Language Arts:


What do Teacher Evaluations look like now?  What would they look like under HB176









Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teacher Evaluations: What do they look like now, What could they look like with HB176?

Teacher evaluations are often brought up as fodder for an assortment of folks who seem to have a great deal of opinion on the matter.  It is fascinating to me, as an 8th grade science teacher, that the performance evaluation tool that assesses my effectiveness as an educator is such a hot topic. Regardless, evaluations are something teachers are passionate about, and rightfully so.  To shed light on this, lets walk through the process...

How do teacher evaluations currently get completed?  An administrator from within our district is assigned to a number of teachers.  Depending on the previous years evaluation, there are a set number of "walk through" style observations and then either one or two formal evaluations.  In the formal evaluation there is a pre-conference, a full class time observation and a post-conference.  Currently the observation uses the OTES rubric to determine the ranking of the teacher.  Evidence must be provided for each section or category.  I like this process.  I like seeing my administrators, and so do the students.  I like for my administrators to know what I'm doing in my classroom and to have confidence in who I am as a teacher.  The "OTES" rubric is similar to Praxis rubric of the past, just a bit more redundant.  I don't mind rubrics.  I enjoy "evaluations". I appreciate praise and suggestions for improvement.  If these steps were all that evaluations entailed (as it was in the past) then I would have little more to say about them, however, currently this process only makes up 50% of Ohio teacher's evaluation.

The other 50% is derived from student performance.  The students take a variety of state tests (which is a subject for another post), and how they perform on those tests determines the effectiveness of the teachers.  I am NOT ok with this.  When it comes to the rigor of my classroom and the amount of information and understanding they gain,  my administrators, students and student's parents can attest to the excellent job I do.  I do not say this to be boastful,  but to shed light on the fact that I, like my teaching peers, are working day in and day out to help the young people of Ohio reach a deeper understanding of the world around them.  We teach them content, and how to improve the content of the character.  In my 14 years of teaching, I can attest to the fact that I have students who have learned all that I have sought to teach them, however this is not indicated by test scores.

Why not?  Why is this such a big deal?  If the students learned what they were supposed to, then why are the tests such a frustration?  The standardized tests in general are a frustration philosophically, but even putting that aside, my students have very little buy-in for these tests.  Students will not find out how they performed on the test until well after school is out.  Even then, the academic repercussions are non-existent. One of my students said it best: "What's the point?"

Some students do work very hard, up to the last minute, because that is their nature.  Some students stress out at the idea that their performance is going to effect me (even though that is NOT an emphasis I make in my classroom, they understand the game).   Some students click through the test, just to be done. For these students, no amount of bribing with prizes for working longer gets this grouping of students to try harder (I also take issue with rewarding expected behavior... another post for another day).

For those that legitimately try,  I have found from my digital test in class that they consistently perform at a lower achievement level on computerized tests then paper/pencil tests.  The graphics can be difficult to manipulate and understand, and the students have stated they like to have a pencil in their hands to write out their answers (Not just on the scratch paper provided).  There is also the timing factor on top of all of this.  This year, the 8th grade science test was administered the Monday (ironically a government holiday) after Easter.  With the multitude of holiday associated factors,  I feel confident in saying that the results will be diminished from their initial potential.  This test is to be 50% of my overall "ranking" as a teacher?

In a nutshell, these tests are not a true reflection of what my students know.  As their teacher, I should be the one confirming or denying their mastery of content and providing my assessment through the means my local school board has deemed appropriate ( Letter grades).  In the same way, my effectiveness as an educator should be assessed by my administrator through a means agreed upon by our local board of education and teacher leaders, not the state. I welcome my administrators and school board members into my classroom.  I welcome evaluations by my administrators, using a rubric that the teachers and school boards design together.

 Its time for us to voice our faith in our local school board members, our teachers and our administrators.  Its time to stop demoralizing those who invest so much into the future of our society.  We instead should be empowering them with a vote of confidence.  If you agree to this notion, this is the time to be proactive.  Representative Andy Thompson has penned a bill that supports local school boards and teachers to make these decisions.  It allows for school choice on curriculum, increases student data protection and completely removes state assessments from teacher evaluations.  I encourage you to read over the analysis of the bill for yourself.  If you like what you read, please go one step farther and take action.  Call or write your legislator and ask them to support it.  This is not a partisan issue, this is an opportunity for us to all work together for our schools.

Thank you for your time and lets #passHB176

-Nicki


Link for the Analysis of the bill:


How to identify and contact your state representative:

Link to the full HB 176



  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A pathway to fix Ohio's Schools.

A pathway to fix Ohio's education system: A note to teachers, administrators, community members and parents.

The divisiveness in our nation can be dizzying.  It seems that, even in casual conversation, extreme opinions stop the natural progression of problem solving and improving the status quo.  One of the domestic problems, that weighs heavy on my heart, is our education system in Ohio.  If you are in the education field, or have a family member “in the trenches”, you are painfully aware of the broken assessment/evaluation system, the distressing air tests and the burdensome resident educator program.  If you are a parent or a community member, you are intensely aware of the shroud of confusion associated with common core standards and mandates (or ESSA).  These are problems that I hear our community member’s express extensive frustration over, but it seems that frustration often turns into empathy and exhaustion when faced with the size and scope of the problem.

I believe every problem has a solution, even this one.  What if there is a plan that is bi-partisan and restores local control to our own local board of education?  I know it sounds too good to be true, but I deeply believe that Representative Andy Thompson (Ohio’s 95th district) has penned a bill that will rectify many of the issues that are inhibiting what is best for Ohio’s kids.  Ohio  HB 176, Address school assessments and curricula and teacher evaluations”, accomplishes many of the solutions I have heard teachers offer in morning meeting after morning meeting. In a two-word nutshell, it is “local control”.  HB 176 removes many of the unnecessary standardized tests, with the premise that the local districts are to determine mastery and competency.  It establishes recommended, not mandated, standards; it removes assessments from the evaluation process for teachers and administrators and it effectively ends the resident educator program.  This bill also promotes equitable reporting for charter schools and public schools and makes great strides to protect student’s data (a hot commodity that should have NEVER been a commodity in the first place).

What happens next? I encourage everyone to read over the analysis of the bill.  It digests the bill into relatively concise main ideas, and really helps familiarize yourself with what the bill contains.  Then, truthfully, the single best thing you can do is to call your local State Representative and express your support for the bill.  It does not matter how you identify politically, these measures will restore Ohio’s education system and profession.  Finally, I ask you to please spread the word to your friends and family.  If all of us work together, we can create a better education system for Ohio’s children.

Sincerely,
Nicki


Link to the analysis of HB 176:

How to identify and contact your state representative:

Link to the full HB 176