Proposed Ohio laws have impact on students, teachers

One regulates how students are remediated and other could impact teacher contracts.

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Two bills that recently passed the Ohio Senate could have far-reaching impacts on Ohio schools.

Senate Bill 162, which regards academic intervention services, and Senate Bill 168, which is wide-ranging but includes several changes to how districts can work with teachers, have passed the Ohio Senate. Neither have been voted on in the Ohio House.

If SB 162 passes, it would give schools more parameters around getting students back on track academically. It unanimously passed the Senate.

Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, primary sponsor of the bill, said the updated requirements should already be in place at many schools.

“The problem is we’re not seeing improvement in the scores over the last three years,” Brenner said. “In fact, we saw a decline in many cases.”

Last school year, for all students in English Language Arts, 60.9% of them scored at least proficient on state tests, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce.

But in 2018-2019, the school year immediately preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, the proficiency rate was 64.6%, according to the same data. That means a smaller percentage of students have been scoring proficient or better on state tests since COVID-19 began.

Some of the updated improvements in the bill include requiring that districts remediate students who score limited - the lowest level on Ohio State Tests – and charging the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce to analyze remediation programs across Ohio.

“We put in strategic plans that are evidence based to get them caught up,” Brenner said. “And if we can do that, then I think we’re going to be in much better shape.”

Senate Bill 168 has several provisions, including allowing people to be employed as teachers if they have a master’s degree, but without a license to be a teacher, if they have completed an exam in their subject matter from the state board of education and gotten a background check, and when a school district is making cuts, they will decide between two people based on evaluations rather than seniority.

Those two provisions in particular made the bill more controversial. It was voted out of the Senate by 24 votes yes to seven votes no.

Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said these types of bills can seem to address the problem of getting enough teachers, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

“We have to stay concerned about quality in the system,” Cropper said. “And again, just knowing your content doesn’t mean you know how to teach that content.”

She said the provision that discusses using evaluations when school districts are making cuts could impact future teacher contracts. Currently, most contracts use seniority.

“There’s nothing that says the local districts can’t use seniority and the fact that they’ve all got union contracts that basically probably say that anyway, it’s not going to change much,” Brenner said.

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