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Ohio Teachers' Union Turns the Table and Evaluates State Reps

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Friday, May 25, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Ohio State Rep. Bruce Goodwin (R, Goodwin) is one of the top-ranked state reps, by one teacher union group's measure.

An Ohio teachers' union is turning the tables on the state lawmakers who were part of the push to change how public school teachers are evaluated in a sign of the tension some educators feel over changes in how they are judged.

Ohio's new model for teacher evaluations -- which will be in place in all school districts by the start of the 2013-14 school year -- calls for half of each teacher's evaluation to be based on student performance. The rest is supposed to be based on other factors, including classroom observations, professional growth and relationships with parents and students. Teachers will be rated on a four-level scale ranging from "Accomplished" at the top to "Ineffective" at the bottom.

The Central Ohio Education Association/National Education Association (a district organization of the Ohio Education Association) used that model to draw up its own tongue-in-cheek model for evaluating the state representatives who signed off on its creation. The website shows the results:

Rep. Bruce W. Goodwin (R, Defiance), for example, is the top-ranked representative with the top grade of "Accomplished." (Goodwin also happens to have worked in education for nearly 40 years.) Farther down the rankings, Rep. Mike Dovilla (R, Berea) gets the lowest ranking and the bottom grade of "Ineffective." House Speaker William Batchelder (R, Medina) is number 37 on the list of 59, with a grade of "Developing," the rough equivalent of a "C."

The union's rankings are based on how unemployment rates, crime stats and school ratings in each rep's district changed over the course of his/her term, plus how many readers online give them a thumbs-up or thumbs down.

Central OEA/NEA's Russell Hughlock explains in an email why the union group built the site:

The idea of the site is to first help educate around the complex issues of evaluations, but also draw attention to legislators and their policy making. Secondarily, if we can mirror what legislators have created for teachers and have it apply it to them, perhaps they may recognize the impact some of their policy ideas can have on people and their professions and perhaps they will be more contemplative and collaborative going forward, especially if the public is more versed in some of the actual details of those policies.

Ohio teachers' unions are walking a fine line in the discussion of new ways of evaluating teachers. On one hand, Ohio Education Association spokesperson Michele Prater says in an email:

OEA believes [Ohio's teacher evaluation] model includes many of the principles we believe are crucial in a properly constructed evaluation system, e.g., created collaboratively  with teachers and bargained collectively; designed to recognize good teaching and structured to help teachers improve; based in Ohio’s standards for the teaching profession; and includes fair and just processes.

And OEA has been involved in the development of the teacher evaluation model, Prater says:

The Ohio Department of Education has actively sought input from OEA and other professional organizations. OEA members serve with other educators on the Educator Standards Board, which has provided input for several years; and OEA members also had input through working committees and participation in pilots in selected districts throughout Ohio.

On the other hand, OEA and many individual teachers are concerned that the new evaluation model relies heavily on value-added data, which is essentially a statistical measure of how much a teacher's students learn over the course of one year, regardless of what the students know at the start of the year.

As StateImpact Ohio commenter Charlie44266 wrote earlier:

A teacher can "teach" her heart out and her students still do poorly on standardized tests of a few subjects. They do poorly because their community is a mess, their parents are unemployed or underemployed, the state hasn't provided enough funds to have a decent infrastructure, etc. Where do these factors come into the teacher ratings?

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