Teacher Evaluation Overkill in Ohio - What about PE Teachers?

Evaluating teachers to gauge their impact on student achievement is a necessary reform. For too long school districts have been unable to identify their high performers from their underachievers, and reward and support them accordingly. Few disagree that it is a good thing to know if teachers are having a positive impact on their students’ abilities to read, write, do mathematics, comprehend history, and acquire the other academic knowledge and skills young people need to be successful in life.

But, in Ohio – and probably in other states – the desire to evaluate teachers has likely gone too far when we try to hold Physical Ed teachers accountable for teaching students to meet state defined targets like:

*Consistently demonstrating correct skipping technique with a smooth and effortless rhythm;
*Demonstrates correct technique, the ball flies upward at approximately a 45-degree angle and over a distance of 30 feet or great;
*Consistently demonstrates good rhythm by following a sequence of dance steps in time and with music;
*Able to throw consistently a ball underhand with good accuracy and technique to a target (or person) with varying distances; or
*Able to strike consistently a ball with a paddle to a target area with accuracy and good technique.

The Ohio Department of Education has, as mandated by state law, put together a 165 page “Physical Education Evaluation System” that is now being used across the state to measure the effectiveness of PE teachers. The document not only spells out the standards students are to meet in gym class, but also has a number of suggested written items for students to pass. These items for K-2 students (five to eight year olds) include questions like:

To throw a ball overhand with your right hand, you should step forward with your left foot.

A. True B. False

For a good overhand throw, you should bend the elbow in the shape of an “L” behind the head before throwing.

A. True B. False

*When you roll or toss a ball underhand, you step forward with the same foot as your tossing arm.

A. True B. False

*When throwing to a target you should follow through toward the target after letting go of the ball.

A. True B. False

Not surprisingly, this entire process is being met by the derision of not only PE teachers but school and district leaders who are supposed to implement these standards and evaluations. No doubt parents will also raise objections when they learn that PE is going to be as much about written tests as it is about playing soccer or basketball.

Most educators I know agree that students need physical exercise, and benefit from it. There is even scientific evidence that exercise helps children’s mental functioning and cognitive development. Most teachers and parents I know also think PE is a part of school where kids should actually have fun. But, if PE teachers are to actually meet the voluminous state PE standards, and be evaluated by their schools for making sure all their students meet these standards gym class it going to be a whole lot less fun. Teachers are going to have to spend far more time evaluating students hopping and jumping skills, and issuing paper and pencil tests than actually engaging kids in exercise, games and sport. Sometimes good ideas can go too far, and this seems like one of those times.  

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