Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 11
June 8, 2011
Consistency around performance needed in Ohio budget debate
Teachers open up about evaluations
What the research shows about teacher evaluation systems
Terry Ryan / June 8, 2011
Consistency in public policy is hard to come by because special interests, ideology, and ignorance of issues (manipulated by lobbyists and other interested parties) all collide and compete for life in the cosmic swirl of the legislative process. There is a distinct lack of consistency around education policy in the competing budgets drafted by the Ohio House and Senate that could be remedied if each body could focus their proposals around issues of performance.
In their version of the state budget (HB 153), the Ohio House put forth legislative language on teacher effectiveness that is some of the most progressive in the country. (See op-ed above for details).
The House language is right per teacher effectiveness because it focused squarely on performance. Unfortunately, the House got charters wrong because it focused on everything but performance and accountability. In short, the House version of HB 153 would make it easier for for-profit school operators to function without oversight. It would neuter both governing boards and authorizers of their oversight responsibilities and authority and give operators carte blanche authority over virtually all school decisions. Further, it would exempt these schools from compliance with accountability requirements like annual testing. In short, the House would create a new class of schools – corporate private schools funded directly by the state and free of all state accountability requirements. Under this new corporate school model student performance would matter not one iota, nor could it even be measured and reported.
The Senate took the budget language it received from the House and sought to fix it by purging
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 8, 2011
Even prior to this particular legislative battle, the myths and fears expressed by educators and policymakers alike when it comes to teacher evaluations have been rampant. For example, opponents of overhauling teacher evaluation systems argue they’re inherently unfair, arbitrary, prone to bias, focused too much on test scores, ruin collaboration, and create undo competition. We wondered if any of these realities were true in places where teachers are evaluated in rigorous ways. So we reached out to DC Public Schools, where the DC IMPACT evaluation system has been in place for two years, and went into the field to ask teachers who are already participating in rigorous evaluation systems what they think about these matters.
So what did they have to say? The teachers we interviewed – which include science teachers, an elementary math coach, a fourth-grade teacher (of all subjects), a special ed middle school teacher, an art teacher, and a master educator (who conducts the observations on behalf of DCPS) shared what it’s like to be evaluated via five observations each year and have part of their performance linked to student test scores. Overwhelmingly, even despite some concerns expressed by several of the teachers, common themes emerged. A binary rating systems (“satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”) is neither informative about which teachers are effective and which are not, nor does it help teachers improve their practice. Even teachers with significant concerns expressed that IMPACT correctly identifies the worst performers and the top-flyers. And several teachers who have not yet earned the distinction of “highly effective” said that IMPACT motivates them daily to improve
For as long as anyone can remember, in Ohio as in the rest of America, a public-school teacher’s effectiveness and performance in the classroom have had little to no impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district’s schools, or how her professional development is crafted.
Instead, all of these critical decisions are made on the basis of quality-blind state policies, like the notorious “last-in, first-out” mandate governing lay-offs, and tenure rules that allow teachers to have job protection for life and “bump” less senior teachers when jockeying for positions. Effective teachers are forced to go simply because they have not taught as long as others, regardless of how successful (or not) other teachers might be, students are left with whichever instructors have been in the system the longest, and teachers receive professional development that is not tied at all to their individual improvement needs.
To their credit, Governor Kasich and the Ohio House have been trying to transform the system by which the state handles these crucial teacher HR decisions. The biennial budget bill passed by the House assigns classroom effectiveness a key role in determining how teachers are assigned to schools, whether their contracts are renewed, and – when budgets make it unavoidable – how they are laid off. It would put in place a teacher evaluation system that incorporates student academic growth and several other key job-related performance factors and would rate teachers according to four tiers. Basic personnel decisions around tenure, placement,
June 8, 2011
Education Next, Summer 2011
This article reports results from the ongoing study of the Cincinnati Teacher Evaluation System, namely that evaluations based on well-executed classroom observations do identify effective teachers. Further, scores on the classroom observation component of Cincinnati’s evaluation system accurately predicted the achievement gains made by their students in reading and math.
The New Teacher Project, 2009
This highly influential study highlights the long-time failure among school districts to recognize and respond to the effectiveness of teachers. The Widget Effect describes the tendency of districts to assume classroom effectiveness is the same from teacher to teacher The study surveyed over 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators from four different states and 12 districts to determine the differences that exist in measuring teacher effectiveness. The report found that the "widget effect" is characterized by the following:
- All teachers are rated good or great,
- Excellence goes unrewarded,
- Poor performance goes unaddressed, and
- Professional development systems are inadequate to the challenge.
Teacher Layoff System”
The New Teacher Project, March 2011
The New Teacher Project shows the need for high quality evaluation systems in order to lay off teachers in a manner that is fairer and more equitable to students. Diminishing budgets have forced many districts to lay off teachers in an attempt to save money. While layoffs alone are bad news, they become even more harmful when they are based on antiquated measures such as “last in, first out.” This policy brief looks at the harm that these quality blind layoffs can have, and what needs to be