As soon as next year, approximately 7,000 educators in Ohio's poorest-performing public schools may be required to retake teaching exams under a new law passed by the state.
Math and English teachers who work at schools ranked in the lowest 10 percent of the state will be required to retake and pass Ohio's teacher licensure exams. If the teachers pass, they will be exempt from retaking the test for three years. Each district's school board will have the option to fire teachers who don't pass the test.
Patrick Galloway, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, says the earliest the changes will be implemented is prior to the 2012-2013 school year, and that the criteria for ranking schools is still being developed. Meanwhile, the state's education department is developing a new teacher evaluation system that will be piloted later this school year in certain districts.
[Learn more about teacher evaluation systems.]
Galloway says that by holding schools and teachers accountable for student achievement, underperforming schools will hopefully improve."The whole purpose here is to help our most persistently struggling schools by working to provide the best instructors possible," he says. "We're doing this to lift up those students."
The Ohio law is the most comprehensive state law requiring teacher retesting. The state has aggressively implemented teacher evaluation legislation over the past year, to the chagrin of some teaching groups in the state, who argue that teaching in poorer, urban schools is inherently a tough task.
[Read about an Ohio merit-pay law.]
Galloway says he understands why some educators are pushing back against the law, but that good teachers shouldn't have anything to worry about.
"If you're proud of your performance, you should be able to put it out there and show, 'This is what I'm capable of,'" he says. "We understand there's concern. This is educators' livelihood[s], their passion. But at the same time, we need to make sure we have the best teachers in the classroom."
Teaching advocates say that many of the poorest performing schools are in poverty-stricken areas, which can be the most difficult environments for teachers.
"It's punishing teachers for taking on the toughest job—and will actually discourage good teachers from taking on those jobs in those schools [that] need the best teachers," Mark Hill, president of the Worthington Education Association, a group representing 800 teachers in Ohio, told the Columbus NBC affiliate.
For Ohioans' reactions to the bill, read this Yahoo! article.