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Six Recommendations to Improve Ohio Teacher Evaluations

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Ohio school districts will soon change how they evaluate teachers. Among the changes: awarding teachers one of four possible grades and basing at least half of each teacher's evaluation on student performance.

(Currently, most districts rate teachers "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory," with nearly all teachers falling into the first category. And many teacher contracts bar districts from using student performance data to evaluate teachers.)

The State Board of Education is in charge of developing the framework for this new evaluation system. Today, a committee of the board will meet in Columbus to begin finalizing what exactly that framework will be.

The framework will be based on a system called the the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) developed under a 2009 law that required changes to Ohio teacher evaluations. Consultants hired by the board to review the that framework are offering these six observations about OTES and recommendations to improve it, according to an executive summary of the report they'll present today:

  1. The framework emphasizes teaching skills that are directly tied to student achievement--like lesson delivery. That's a good thing.
  2. It offers plenty of chances for feedback and observation. Also a good thing.
  3. Under state law, at least half of a teacher's evaluation must be based on student performance. Since the board hasn't yet determined how to measure that  (particularly for teachers in non-tested subjects and grades), we can't say if it will improve teaching and student outcomes.
  4. The current framework is too complicated, including ten different forms for teachers to fill out. And having to fill out so many forms could encourage teachers and evaluators to focus on just filling them out rather than using them to improve student performance. Ohio should look at how other states accomplish the same work using fewer forms.
  5. Allowing some teachers to avoid annual evaluations--as under OTES--isn't a good idea.
  6. The current framework doesn't do a good job of helping teachers reflect on their own performance.

Dayton real estate executive Tom Gunlock is Vice President of Ohio's Board of Education.

Among the big open questions the board will take up today are how to incorporate student performance into teacher evaluations and how to cut down on paperwork, said Board of Education Vice President Tom Gunlock, who chairs the committee that is developing the new evaluation system.

Gunlock said he didn't know yet how student performance would be factored into teacher evaluations. He dismissed concerns that it would be used simply as justification to fire teachers.

"There's a lot of rumors out there that we're trying to fire a bunch of teachers…and that's absolutely not true," he said. "The whole goal here is to get the best teachers in the classrooms in the state of Ohio."

The board must finalize Ohio's new model for teacher evaluation by the end of this year. A handful of districts will pilot evaluation system based on the board's model (or at least the draft of the model as it stands once school starts) this school year, and all traditional public school districts will be required to implement it by the start of the 2013 school year.

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