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Ohio House Passes Legislation to Welcome Teach For America to Ohio

Measure will staff low-income schools with high-quality teachers

COLUMBUS—State Representative Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) today announced the Ohio House’s passage of Substitute House Bill 21—which strives to expand educational opportunity for Ohio’s urban and rural schools by establishing Teach For America in Ohio—by a vote of 64-32.

Specifically, Sub. H.B. 21 directs the State Board of Education to issue a resident educator license to an applicant who is assigned by Teach For America to teach in Ohio and meet certain required qualifications. It also directs the State Board to issue a resident educator license to an applicant who has completed at least two years of teaching in another state as a participant in the Teach For America program and to credit that individual with completion of two years of the four-year Ohio Teacher Residency Program.

“It is time to give Ohio schools access to this extremely talented pool of individuals that get recruited by Teach for America,” said Combs. “To bring top graduates of all disciplines from the top 10 percent of universities in the nation into our most needy classrooms is an opportunity that parents and students cannot afford to pass up.”

Over the two year period that a Teach For America teacher is working in Ohio’s schools, they will be double evaluated by both the strict requirements of their mentoring program and also by the Ohio Teacher Residency Program. No school districts or charters will be made to hire these teachers, but data from other states shows that once the program is brought into a state, the competitive recruitment of these teachers begins by schools needing to greatly improve. With 31 other states recruiting these top graduates from top universities and inviting them to live and work in their state, it makes perfect sense to take full advantage of this program for the future of Ohio.

Despite decades of attempts at reforming education through new funding and adjusted standards, there is still a staggering amount of children in Ohio who are not prepared for the challenges of college or the workplace. The 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress, sometimes referred to as our nation’s report card, stated that only 36 percent of Ohio eighth graders scored proficient or better in mathematics. This legislation aims to provide new lines of support for our education system where achievement goals have fallen short. The fact is that highly effective teachers are the most critical element for improving student achievement, more than class size, poverty, family background, and even overall school quality.

One of Governor John Kasich’s priorities for his vision of Ohio is to recruit and retain the best and brightest to our state through innovation and increased job opportunities, and one of the most abundant resources Ohio has is higher education graduates. Last year, Teach For America was the number-one employer of graduates from Denison University, Otterbein College, Kenyon College and the College of Wooster, all of those highly motivated top graduates are forced to pursue their goals outside of Ohio. This year alone, more than 1,800 Ohio graduates have applied for the Teach For America program. These young people are motivated to make an immediate change in the communities they will live and work in and Ohio has barred them from staying in Ohio.

Some of the organizations and individuals that have given their support for this legislation are: The Fordham Foundation, Teach For America, President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education Keith More, tens of thousands of Teach For America alumni, and hundreds of thousands of students who have been helped by the attention that the Teach For America corp. has given them. Ohio Governor John Kasich mentioned in his State of the State that “Teach for America will be coming to Ohio,” and Representative Combs shares the same goal and wants to use this legislation to encourage our top graduates to stay in Ohio.

Teach For America is a national corps of top recent college graduates from all academic majors who commit two years to teaching in urban and rural public schools. An organization of more than 28,000 teachers and alumni, Teach For America is one of the nation’s most prominent providers of teachers for low-income communities.

The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.