Proposed Changes to Teacher Evaluation

Teacher_EvaluationIf you have read this blog regularly you know that this year in Worthington we are fully implementing the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System with all of our teachers.  The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System is a process that was born out of legislation and requires that 50% of a teachers evaluation be based on teacher performance in the classroom (principal observation) and 50% based on student growth measures (student test scores).  I’ve recently written about my experiences as an evaluator using this process in a post titled OTES in Action and before that I detailed how we have Worthingtonized the process in a post titled WOTES.  Now there is more action with teacher evaluation in Ohio.

Senator Randy Gardner, along with co-sponsors including Senator Peggy Lehner, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, introduced Senate Bill 229 last week that contains three significant changes to the evaluation process.  The three major changes that are proposed are as follows:

1) Reduces the required percentage that student growth (as measured by standardized tests) would be applied to a teacher’s overall evaluation from 50% to 35%.

2) Teachers rated Accomplished (highest rating) would only be reevaluated every 3 years instead of every year. (Trust me… those Accomplished criteria are HARD to meet, in some categories almost impossible!)

3) Teachers rated Skilled (second highest rating) would only be reevaluated every other year.

evaluationsMy first reaction to these changes is that they make a great deal of sense and I applaud the legislature for looking closely at this system, staying true to the tenants of the importance of teacher evaluation and student outcomes, while also recognizing that the current system as is designed may collapse upon itself unless school districts are able to devote significantly more resources to administration designed to evaluate teachers or to complete traditional administrative tasks such as managing the school, meeting with parents, etc…

The legislature clearly wants to marry a teacher’s evaluation and the growth of the students in a teacher’s care.  Ideally this would be an easy correlation, however we know that many factors go into a student’s growth and many teachers do not have a valid and reliable measure of their impact on a student’s growth.  To combat this we are using the SLO process, however, even in Worthington where our process was very focused and support was provided for assessment literacy, SLO results will need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Counting student growth as 35% of a teacher’s evaluation still seems high to me, but politically it is a good compromise.  (Do we still compromise politically?)

The second change probably is of little impact, although they should still make it.  As an evaluator of really, really good teachers I see almost no one who will hit the Accomplished bar overall.  The rubric is set so high for Accomplished that this would impact very few teachers in Worthington (and we have the very best teachers this side of the Mississippi!)

Finally, evaluating Skilled educators every other year would help principals reduce the amount of time they are spending on teacher evaluation.  This one probably would have giant impact assuming we could somehow stagger the evaluations.  It wouldn’t help if next year no skilled teachers were evaluated and the following year they all were.

An option not proposed in SB 229 that I think makes sense is continuing to evaluate every teacher each year but reducing the requirement for formal observation from the current two per year,to one per year, and then increasing the number of required walkthroughs.  This would keep principals in classrooms both formally and informally, but would significantly cut down on the time taken to preconference, observe, write the evaluation and post conference.  Some have estimated that this time is 2 to 3 hours per observation.  A reduction here would save the average Worthington principal 90 work hours a year while adding just 10 hours of walkthroughs.

No matter what happens I’m glad the legislature is open to looking at the system.  I believe we should be able to accomplish a robust teacher evaluation system that improves education in Ohio while also listening to practitioners about their challenges and working to mitigate the challenges or to add support so they are minimized.

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