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A Look at Ohio's New Teacher Evaluation System

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Friday, November 11, 2011 at 7:00 AM


The defeat of Issue 2 on Tuesday does not mean the end of a new teacher evaluation system. In fact, the State Board of Education has been overseeing the development of a framework for teacher evaluations for months.

A 2009 law said the state's Educator Standards Board should develop a new and improved way to evaluate Ohio teachers. This year's state budget required the State Board of Education to approve the evaluation system's outline by the end of 2011, and it's also mandated as part of Ohio's participation in the federal Race to the Top education reform program. Finally, the State Board of Education is set to to present that framework at its meeting on Monday.

So what can we expect from the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System?

Tom Gunlock is vice president of the State Board of Education and chair of its capacity committee.

Gunlock’s committee is tasked with creating a framework that all districts have to abide by when they write their own teacher evaluation systems. That framework roughly looks like this:

  • 50 percent of the evaluation will rely on student growth, i.e., test scores  (mandated by Race to the Top).
  • 50 percent will be made up of other assessments, such as teacher observations and communications with parents and students. Districts can decide how much weight to give these areas. For example, a district could choose to make parent communication count for 10 percent of their evaluation system, while in another district it could only count for 5 percent.

Gunlock says much of the student growth component will rely on value added data. That's a statistical measure that tries to measure how much students learned in a given year. Currently, that’s only calculated for students in grades four through eight in reading and math.

How the state will measure student growth in other areas of study, such as music, art, science and physical education remains to be seen. Gunlock says they may rely on end of year exams, and compare them to tests given at the start of the school year.

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The division of the the ways teachers are evaluated between student performance and subjective assessments was required by law. Gunlock says this way, if a teacher’s students do poorly on state tests, teachers are also judged by the other assessments. Similarly, if a principal or a parent dislikes a teacher’s classroom approach, that teacher can still get high marks because of students’ test scores.

Gunlock says it’s not really the teachers that land in the middle of the evaluation scale that the board hopes to identify; it’s the “outliers” – the teachers who do really well, and those who consistently perform badly on all evaluations.

“I don’t think anybody should be judged on one school year. Now three years of bad student growth, one really has to look at what’s going on,” Gunlock says. “I don’t think it’s fair to cheat kids out of a year of education because of bad teachers.”

Hundreds of school districts in Ohio have been working to develop their own teacher evaluation systems. Some, like Cincinnati, have already implemented them. And dozens are already piloting systems developed under this new framework.

Districts participating in Race to the Top will have to start using the new guidelines next fall. According to HB 153 (that would be this year’s state budget) all other districts (except for charter schools) have to start using them in 2013.

Gunlock says the teacher evaluation framework is meant to be a guideline that schools can fit their own evaluation systems into. That means in 2013, each of the state’s 600+ school districts could have fairly different ways of assessing their teachers.

The State Board of Education has until the end of the year to finalize the plan, and it could still change quite a bit between now and its formal implementation with the start of next school year.

Gunlock says think of it like beta software, “what we’re going to do now is 1.0 and 2.0 will come shortly, and then a 3.0.”

Teachers around the state have expressed concern about what the evaluation system will look like. Gunlock admits it won’t be perfect right off the bat, but he hopes to develop the “best teacher evaluation system in the country,” eventually.

Tune in Monday for a closer look at the new teacher evaluation model. In the meantime, you can browse through this August draft of the guidelines:

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