It hasn’t even been a week since voters overturned Senate Bill 5 – the law that would have limited the bargaining rights of public employees. But for teachers, perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking provisions of that legislation is still on its way: a new, way of evaluating teachers based in part on their students’ academic performance.
This new, broadly standardized method for evaluating teachers would have been included in Senate Bill 5.
But it was also part of a 2009 law. And it’s built into the federal Race to the Top program. And it was included in this year’s state budget. So Senate Bill 5′s trouncing is not going to derail the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.
That’s a framework for schools to assess teacher performance. Half of the evaluation will be based on subjective evaluations, such as principal or peer reviews and parent input. The other half will be based on student performance.
The State Board of Education will approve the foundation of the teacher evaluation system. Individual districts will then adopt their own evaluation policies, which must meet the guidelines approved by the state board.
But the State Board of Education still has to vote on the plan before it can be implemented. At Monday’s board meeting, member Mary Rose Oakar said she still has concerns, including how student progress will be measured and what will be done to keep principals from playing favorites.
“It is being heralded as the new wave in improving our system. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do evaluations, but it has to be fair,” Oakar said. “It has to be fair and thought-through.”
Oakar said her fears were not quelled by the idea that this will just be a framework within which local school districts can implement their own ways of evaluating teachers. Local control, Oakar said, “is always a little bit iffy” for Ohio.
Other board members had their own concerns about local districts having a lot of say in how they assess their teachers.
“We know the districts where the quality of the football team’s uniforms is more important than the quality of the algebra teachers,” Board member C. Todd Jones said.
While charter schools that do not receive federal Race to the Top funds do not have to use this new framework, Jones cautioned against requiring charter schools to do so in the future. Jones said performance-based teacher evaluations “should not be used as a cudgel to kill off school choice.”
Board member Michael Collins disagreed. “This needs to apply to every entity that receives public dollars for education,” he said.
If that happened, the new evaluation system could extend to charter schools, and possibly even private school that are part of the EdChoice scholarship program.
The general framework of the plan isn’t expected to change much – if at all – by the board’s December meeting, when the full board will vote on it.
That decision will be followed by the remainder of a year-long pilot period of more than 130 public and charter schools around the state, which may result in some tweaks and changes to the plan before it’s formally implemented by many of the schools participating in Race to the Top in the fall.
The rest of Ohio’s public school districts – currently excluding charter schools – have until July 2013 to implement the new evaluation system.