Schools across Ohio are using a new way of evaluating teachers this year — and state lawmakers already want to make changes.
A bill introduced earlier this month by state Sen. Randy Gardner, a Republican from Bowling Green, would change the new teacher evaluation system. It would allow teachers to be evaluated less frequently and have less of their evaluation based on their students’ academic growth.
Some school administrator have said they worry the new system will require principals to spend too much time watching teachers teach and holding meetings with teachers to discuss their performance. And some educators believe the new system puts too much emphasis on judging teachers based on how much their students’ learn.
Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner, a Republican from Kettering, is a co-sponsor of the bill.
She said the changes would help relieve some of the pressure on teachers and administrators who are facing a host of other changes this year, including implementing the Common Core and a new Third Grade Reading Guarantee:
“We recognize that our personnel in schools are feeling very stressed [and] we think it’s important that [the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System} be implemented with integrity," she said. "We think this will allow people to do this with more integrity and be more willing to do it with more integrity."
But education advocacy group StudentsFirst Ohio says the changes would mean teachers would get less feedback on how to improve:
"You don't say to to a teacher we're going to do classroom observation…every couple years," said StudentsFirst Ohio state director Greg Harris. "That makes no logical sense if the goal is to develop teachers to be the best they can be."
Until this year, in most districts, teacher evaluations were mostly based on a principal observing teachers at work every couple of years and grading them. Most teachers received a “satisfactory” rating. And few schools used teachers' job performance in deciding where to place teachers or whether to lay them of or give them raises.
Under the new system that schools are using this year, half of a teacher’s evaluation is based on an observation and the other half is based on how much their students learn over the course of the year. (For some teachers, a controversial measure called “value-added” will be used.)
The observation and test-score measures are combined to give teachers one of four possible grades, from top to bottom: Accomplished, skilled, developing, or ineffective.
All except the very best teachers must be evaluated every year. And schools can no longer use seniority as the basis for making decisions about which teachers to lay off, as long as the teachers involved have the same evaluation rating.
This bill would make several changes to that new system. It would
- Allow districts to evaluate teachers less often. Teachers who receive a grade of “skilled” — which basically means they’re meeting expectations — could be evaluated every other year rather than every year. Teachers who receive the state’s top rating of “accomplished” could be evaluated every three years instead of every two years.
- Allow schools to put less emphasis on how a teacher’s students learn over the course of the year n evaluating that teacher. Districts could base 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on their students’ academic growth. The system schools are using this year requires that student growth account for half of a teacher’s evaluation.
Earlier this year, the state Senate tried to include similar changes in the state budget. But House leaders objected and the changes were not included in the budget legislation signed into law.
This bill is scheduled for its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow.