On November 8, 2017, the Senate Education Committee received proponent testimony on SB216, the so-called education de-regulation bill. Before testimony began, the committee chair, Senator Lehner, indicated that this bill was complicated and would need to have detailed discussion from multiple perspectives. This was not going to be a three hearing bill.
Almost twenty witnesses testified in favor of SB216. Most of the witnesses were district and ESC superintendents. Of these witnesses, three superintendents spoke to the issue of gifted professional development hours:
The testimony offered by Wickliffe City and Chardon Local superintendents and administrators indicated that “[G]iven the amount of additional training contemplated in a number of areas, meeting this standard seems to be unattainable for most districts. Further, all teachers with gifted licensure are already required to meet a six-hour licensure renewal requirement. By directing that this professional development be completed in gifted education, this objective could be completed without further mandate.”
(Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of the professional development requirement. Also, if the objective could be completed without further mandate than how is the standard unattainable½ There are actual examples of many districts, large and small, that are meeting the standard. The larger question is why are some districts meeting the standard and others not½)
The superintendent from Plain Local School had this to say about the gifted professional development. “We have professional learning communities scheduled daily and weekly in our district where valuable and relevant training is taking place. Teachers are constantly learning new teaching strategies to reach all students. In addition, my teachers are analyzing and evaluating data to ensure that they are differentiating in every classroom. I trust my teachers to make decisions based on their data to reach all students in their classroom.”
(The vast majority of classroom teachers have no knowledge of gifted children or training in gifted education. General differentiation techniques are not sufficient for this student population. Trust in general teaching ability is all well and good, as is differentiation for all students. But neither have been shown to be a good substitute for professional development that is specific to gifted students.)
Finally, the superintendent from Coldwater Exempted Village Schools disliked that his Advanced Placement (AP) teachers had to take gifted professional development for Advanced Placement to count as service when College Credit Plus instructors did not have the same requirement. He believed that his district should decide what was appropriate.
(ODE staff has indicated that the department cannot impose requirements on programs run through the Department of Higher Education so professional development requirements cannot apply to College Credit Plus teachers. It should be noted that Advanced Placement is not in and of itself service unless it meets the needs of the gifted student. The depth, breadth, and pace should also be differentiated. A later conversation with this superintendent indicated that his main concern was training for AP teachers.)
Only Jason Wood was asked any questions from the Senate Committee on the gifted professional development issue. Senator Huffman (bill sponsor) stated that a proponent of the gifted training told him that without a mandate for gifted training, districts wouldn’t do it. He then asked if Mr. Wood would do the training without the mandate. Mr. Wood said that they were doing the training. But how they do it and when should be up to the district, and if they thought ten hours was sufficient than that the district should only provide that level of training. He also indicated that the district provided a good deal of training in differentiation. (Again, general differentiation is usually not sufficient for gifted students.)
Senator Gardner asked Mr. Wood if 30 hours was too much, what would the right number be½ Was the answer somewhere between nothing and 30 that could yield a compromise½ Mr. Wood felt that that AP teachers should be exempt from all training and that districts should decide on all hours.
Testimony from all three witnesses can all be accessed at www.oagc.com/advocacyupdates under the “132nd General Assembly Legislation” heading. To view the hearing, please go to http://www.ohiochannel.org/collections/ohio-senate-education-committee½2. Click on the November 8 Senate Education Committee hearing. The testimony and questions from the senators for Mr. Woods is at the 2:08:30 mark in the video.
Once all witnesses were heard, Chairwoman Lehner indicated that her office would be pulling together interested party meetings on various issues. People interested in various topics should contact her office.