by Barbara A. Sposet, Ph.D.
Chair, Teacher Education & Licensure Committee
Baldwin Wallace University
In early October, Ohio Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) introduced Senate Bill 216 called the “Public School Deregulation Act.” The bill has many provisions recommended by school district superintendents in Northwest Ohio. The primary intent of the bill is to create more “flexibility” in Ohio law for school superintendents regarding teacher licensure and classroom assignments, qualifications for educational aide permits, substitutes and continuing contracts (tenure) for non-teaching employees. Currently the bill rests with the Senate Education Committee. If passed by the Ohio Senate, the bill will also study the proposal before voting. If HB 216 passes both the Senate and House of Representatives it goes on to Gov. Kasich for his approval.
Among the highlights of the proposal that will directly affect the PK12 student include:
•A reduction in testing in general with a focus on the youngest students;
•Allow students to take state assessments using technology OR pencil/paper; and
•Require testing companies to connect test items to state standards.
Among the highlights of the proposal that will directly affect both future and current PK12 teachers include:
•Remove Student Growth Measure from the teacher evaluation process;
•Consolidate all teacher licenses (currently the FL license is PK12) into two grade bands: K-8 and 6-12;
•Establish a single substitute license with no criteria on college degree and no restriction on the number of days that can be worked;
•Allow district superintendents to waive licensure requirements for teachers already holding a license that would be the right fit for an assignment outside the scope of their current licensure. (www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation)
The OEA is opposed to Senate Bill 216 because most provisions in the bill would eliminate requirements that support educators and protect students. However, the bill makes other proposals regarding testing and evaluations that OEA supports. The state teacher organization is seeking feedback from its members at: https://www.ohea.org/actions/senate-bill-216-impact/
I also see positives and negatives to SB 216 as they pertain to current and future FL teachers. Feedback from several sources (e.g., the state September meeting of higher education FL teacher educators and responses by OFLA members to my first two articles on the topic) have cited student testing and the Student Growth Measure as two negatives to considering this career path. These are addressed in SB 216 – two steps forward. On the negative side I question the proposed change to the substitute license primarily for its impact on our students. I also question the ‘image’ this change would have on fully-licensed teachers. In other words, why do teachers have to pursue a college degree when substitutes do not need to meet this requirement yet get paid on the average $100 a day? It is possible these ‘flexible options’ may help to ameliorate Ohio’s shortage of FL classroom teachers. I ask, however, ‘At what cost to the student?’ Just as important to consider is how will these solutions impact the students’ perception of teaching as a profession? Definitely two steps backward for both students and teachers alike.
In my role as chair of the TELC, I strongly recommend readers to contact the OEA and/or their legislators to voice their opinions on SB 216. A directory of all Ohio legislators can be found here: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/legislator-directory. On my part, I will pursue the impact of the proposed change in licensure grade level bands and the current FL licensure with Ryan Wertz (ODE) and Jessica Mercerhill (ODHE).
Finally, our conversation regarding teacher advocacy will continue at OFLA’s Spring Conference April 5 -7 in downtown Cleveland at the Marriott. I will be conducting a 50-minute session entitled: ‘To Be (or not to be) A Foreign Language Teacher” on Saturday, April 7 from 9:20 to 10:10 a.m. in the Superior Room. Attendees will participate in a World Café activity to share/brainstorm ideas on how to increase interest in teaching as a profession. The sessions is for current pre-service and in-service FL teachers as well as higher education FL faculty including methods instructors and supervisors. Ryan Wertz, World Language Consultant from the Ohio Department of Education, will also be in attendance with any updates. Hope to see a large turnout!