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Ohio Teacher Pay Changes Coming ... Next Up, Testing?

The wires are buzzing with the details of a bill recently signed into law in Ohio, SB 5, which limits the scope of collective bargaining for public employees in that state, does away with reverse-seniority layoffs, and will tie teacher evaluations to pay raises.

The state is being billed in some news reports as the first in the nation to require merit-based pay for all teachers, although legislation signed into law in Florida seems to have a very similar requirement. I haven't completed my read of the enormous, 300-page bill yet, but from what I can tell, it isn't all that explicit about just how the new pay systems should be structured.

The state is hard at work putting together a new teacher-evaluation model for its participating Race to the Top districts. Now it looks like whatever it comes up with will end up being adapted statewide and also connected to pay reforms.

Many of the details in the bill will influence the refinement the evaluation system, including a requirement in SB 5 that 50 percent of the teacher evaluation be based on student growth.

"We're really trying to build a flexible model that can adapt to many situations, but still meet the measure of the law," Julia Simmerer, the director of Ohio's education standards board, told me last week.

The new evaluations are rolling out for the state's Race to the Top districts this fall (minus the student-growth component).

What's NOT gotten a lot of press, however, is that Ohio Gov. Kasich, a Republican, is also proposing that teachers who work in the state's lowest-performing schools take tests of subject-matter competency, as one of several proposed reform measures. The idea is to make sure that teachers in the lowest-performing schools know their content.

The proposal is in Kasich's budget proposal. It's not clear who's supposed to foot the bill for these tests; the budget doesn't specify that part.

States have mixed records on licensing tests. Most of them, save Massachusetts, set the passing bar at a pretty low level. On the other hand, it's interesting to note that this proposal would re-test teachers once they've already gotten into classrooms.

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