Resident Educator: Win the Future Educators of Ohio
Social Studies Teacher/Teacher Advocate/OEA Advocate
The Ohio Education Association (OEA) faces difficult times. One area that must be addressed, not only for the sake of the OEA but also for the sake of the teaching profession, is the Resident Educator (RE) program. The RE program was put into law by politicians with the backing of education reformers and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to improve the quality of teaching. However, the RE program is flawed and does not help young teachers develop. Instead, the Resident Educator program puts undue, counterproductive burdens on young teachers and reinforces the notion of preparing students for standardized testing as a measure of good teaching.
There are some major flaws that need to be pointed out. First, after four years of being implemented, the RE program does not provide a procedure or path to professional licensure for resident educators. This should be troubling and cause outrage for the OEA and the public because lawmakers created this law, and ODE endorsed it knowing this. As of February 2015, the Ohio Department of Education was still working on the procedure for licensure. Second, resident educators have to wait nine years instead of five years to qualify for school loan repayment assistance, interest reduction, or forgiveness because the resident educator license is not considered the professional license. I have two questions for the legislators, school reformers, and the ODE: How are we going to get highly qualified teachers to teach in poor districts with this major flaw concerning licensure? Are highly qualified teachers going to stay in these districts when there are better opportunities in a district that is not financially challenged?
The answer to the second question is an obvious no. Third, the Resident Educator program requires cumbersome paperwork with assignments created to validate the need for administrative positions involved with the RE program at the local, county, and state levels. The program was created without consideration or input from the teachers who have to go through it. The biggest flaw is that the precious time needed to address the real-world needs of new teachers is instead used to create a task list of all of the needless paperwork that the program requires. Many times this paperwork overlaps with tasks that new teachers have to complete for the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) anyway, so much of the work done is redundant, or the tasks assigned are meaningless. Most of the time is spent figuring out how to answer the questions correctly and finding the information needed to complete the forms. If this isn’t grossly unfair to new teachers, I don’t know what is.
The Ohio Education Association needs to advocate for either the immediate end to the RE program or for at least a major overhaul of the program that addresses the myriad of serious problems caused by the program. The OEA has formally acknowledged issues with the implementation and the administration of the Resident Educator program performance assessment. The OEA vows to communicate these issues directly to ODE and to key state officials while assisting local associations on strategies to ensure that RE programs provide high-quality service to beginning teachers, support for their mentors, and appropriate oversight of the performance assessment process. The OEA must fight for the teachers who are suffering through this process because mentor teachers and resident educators do not have a voice right now. They do not have a voice because the RE program does not provide ample feedback opportunities. If there is an opportunity to provide feedback, it isn’t made clear or available to either the resident educators or the mentor teachers.
The OEA will face serious right-to-work challenges in the coming months and years. We must stand united and form a stronger bond than ever before. The key issue for new members is the Resident Educator program. The OEA must actively address the very serious problems the program creates for our resident educators. Our job is to win the hearts and minds and, therefore, the loyalty of our members with results, not rhetoric; with advocacy of our values, not compromise of our values; and with courage, not fear. The future of the OEA depends on reaching, defending, and advocating our newest members. Together we can, and together we will!