Despite Budget Setback, Ohio Educators Continue Fight Over Teaching Requirements

Jul 10, 2017

Dozens of teachers gathered outside the Statehouse on Wednesday to protest the reinstatement of the Ohio Resident Educator Program, with over 5,000 people signing a petition asking the House to override Kasich’s decision.

But for now, the program still stands.

Sarah Cordingley, an English teacher at Western Career Academy Grove City, just completed all four years of the program, which is required for all new public school teachers and some private school teachers in Ohio.

She explains that the program involves two years of mentoring, in which an experienced teacher comes into the classroom to observe. That part, Cordingley says, is “fantastic.”

The sticking point for teachers comes in the third year, when teachers have to complete the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA), a comprehensive exam.

“The Summative Assessment, that’s the trouble,” Cordingley says. “For that particular assignment I was required to videotape two separate lessons. I also had to write about 15 short essays for each video segment explaining exactly what I was thinking and proving that every aspect of my teaching is based basically in research.”

Cordingley says those requirements turned into 81 hours of work, most of which she had to do outside school.

“But that doesn’t include all the time that it basically lived on my soul,” she says.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, successful completion of the RESA means a teacher becomes eligible for a professional license.

But there’s a catch: If teachers don’t pass the assessment within three tries, they lose their ability to teach and must wait a year to reapply. Those stakes, Cordingley says, caused most of the stress.

“I gave it everything I had,” she says. “I mean, if you tell me my license is tied to this, you know I’m going to go Hermione Granger on it and put absolutely every amount of effort that I have into it.”

The budget deal reached in the Ohio General Assembly eliminated the entire Ohio Resident Educator Program. Gov. John Kasich vetoed that item, along with 46 others in the bill, on Friday, reinstating the program.

“Having a program that provides feedback and support to teachers in their first years of teaching is critical for student success and for retaining teachers,” Kasich wrote in his veto.

When the House met on Thursday to override some of those vetoes, they declined to cut the program again.

While Cordingley says she understands why the program looks on paper like it will improve teaching. In reality, though, she said it ended up taking time away from her current students.

“The time that I could have spent planning or grading, it went to RESA,” Cordingley says. “I look into their eyes and I feel so much like, I want so much to be able to teach you… and instead my attention is divided.”

Legislators told teachers that instead of eliminating the program entirely, they are considering revamping it.

“I’m all ears for that,” Cordingley says.

If so, Cordingley says teachers want to be a part of those discussions, though. A revised version of the proposal might be able to save the first two years of mentorship that she says are beneficial, while eliminating third year of assessment that she says are holding them back.

“It seems kind of silly that after you’ve done all your student teaching, all your other work, just this one little test – gosh, it’s not little – can be the reason why you can’t teach,” Cordingley says.