If it seems that the majority of Ohioans are wondering if legislation titled the “Budget Bill” wasn’t the best vehicle to try and reform public education, it’s because people across the state are beginning to understand all of the contradictory language spread liberally throughout the 4,000+ pages.

A significant reform measure that could have a dramatic effect is the inclusion of prescriptive measures for the evaluation of teachers. The bill requires that 50% of the annual evaluations be based on student academic growth (i.e., value-added test scores), consider vaguely worded factors such as quality of instructional practice, communication and professionalism, and parent and student satisfaction, and will include multiple observations throughout the year, presumably by the teacher’s principal.  As a result, the teacher will be categorized as either “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory.”

An evaluation component of HB153 that has seemingly run under the radar reads as follows:

The procedures for the evaluation of principals shall be based on principles comparable to the teacher evaluation policy adopted by the board under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code, including the requirement for at least fifty per cent of each evaluation to be based on measures of student academic growth, but shall be tailored to the duties and responsibilities of principals and the environment in which principals work. (Ohio Revised Code Sec. 3319.02)

So essentially, principals will be subjected to the same evaluation criteria as teachers.  The modifications that can be anticipated are a use of a school’s performance index score or whole-school value-added results instead of classroom results.  The bill language implies that principals will also be categorized as either “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory.”

This sets up some very interesting scenarios that could arguably reinforce a teacher’s desire to have union representation and protection.  How would you feel if you were a teacher whose student performance would place you in the “highly effective” category, yet your evaluation was being conducted by an “unsatisfactory” principal?  For that matter, how would any teacher reasonably be expected to accept “specific recommendations for any improvements needed in the teacher’s performance, suggestions for professional development that will enhance future performance in areas that do not meet expected performance levels, and information on how to obtain assistance in making needed improvements” from a principal in a lower-ranked category?

These scenarios should not be thought of as theoretical in any way, but are instead existing scenarios that can be identified using data available through the Ohio Department of Education.

A school’s Performance Index Score and Building-level value-added results can reasonably be considered to represent 50% of the evaluation of the principal.  It might also be considered reasonable based on the structure of the other sections of this bill to assume that three years of Performance Index scores should calculated, and that those in the bottom 25% each year will be categorized as “unsatisfactory.”

Crunch the numbers with these components in place and we end up with 797 head principals and 412 assistant principals being categorized as “unsatisfactory” who will be assigned the responsibility for evaluating an estimated 22,000 teachers.  Now, we don’t know the evaluation category of all of those teachers, but put yourself in the place of one of those professionals who is expected to take advice from an “unsatisfactory” leader.  Wouldn’t you be a bit skeptical?

Worse yet, what of those “highly effective” teachers who are being evaluated one of these principals.  Think it seems unlikely given the data sets?  Unlikely maybe, but certainly not unrealistic.  Just ask one of the approximately 4,800 teachers whose students showed significant value-added gains while their school building did not.  Those 4,800 “highly effective” teachers will be evaluated by an “unsatisfactory” administrator.

Seriously, how does that make any sense?  Perhaps the bill should be rewritten so that teachers can offer their administrators “specific recommendations for any improvements needed in the principal’s performance, suggestions for professional development that will enhance future performance in areas that do not meet expected performance levels, and information on how to obtain assistance in making needed improvements.”

Either extreme should be considered absurd and untenable.   As with so much of the other legislation, schools and districts should be legitimately provided the “tools” they need to arrive at collaborative solutions for any internal problems.  Inflexible educational mandates that have no research base or practical application in the real world should be stricken from the budget bill that doesn’t even meet its primary purpose.

Can somebody please convert this bill to an audiobook so that Kasich and the Republican Legislators actually know what’s in it?

 

 
  • Ajama34

     There has to a be a peer element to any new reviews system.  Not only do “unsatisfactory” principals exist, there are also principals who were not that good of teachers.  

    Scores should be determined less by tests scores, and more by perceived improvement over time.  

    I’ve laid it out extensively here.
    http://captaincomma.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/judging-teachers/

  • Steve_hiner

    Oh now don’t worry Greg, all will be fine and dandy when parents (many of whom never return phone calls, never show up for conferences, IEP meetings, open house, etc.) take over the schools! This is what happens when people with NO CLUE try to run the schools. We aren’t making toasters, we are trying to shape the lives of young people to help give them a real future. Why don’t these idiot politicians see that and leave us ALONE! Let us do our jobs, the jobs they would never do if their lives depended on it!

  • TeacherforOhio

     Many principals at the high school level do not have the knowledge of “best practices” or even “effective practices” for the content area (subject) or grade level of the teacher the principal is evaluating since the principal oftentimes hasn’t taught in that content area or grade level for years or may never have taught in that content area or grade level at all.  Best/Effective practices that a principal once knew in middle school math in 1993 are not the same as best/effective practices for a high school social studies classroom in 2011 that a teacher enacts and the principal evaluates.  

  • Real Get Real

     ASSUMING the honest intention of merit pay is to improve education, the GOP strategy is built upon two assumptions that may cause them problems:

    1. Most teachers are ineffective.
    2. Money alone motivates teachers.

    For 1., this is voiced best by Matt Mayer of the Buckeye Institute when he says that only 25% of the teachers deserve merit pay, 50% deserve nothing, and 25% should be fired.  Of course, if 90% of the teachers are very good, then you end up penalizing most good teachers rather than rewarding them.  Normal distributions are nice in theory, but real life is not so simple.  Ask Wall Street on that one.

    For 2., Kasich and the GOP should not “wing it” and do some due diligence.   Since they’ve never been in a classroom teaching, the intelligent approach would be find out what has already been tried.  Reputable studies (not the partisan RAND garbage!) from Harvard and Vanderbilt have shown very little gain from traditional pay-for-performance educator merit systems.   Sure, teachers want to send their kids to college, but no one I know goes into teaching to live in golf course mansions.

    SB5 and the budget provisions will likely be revealed as simple minded and fraught with problems once the “committees” try to address the details.  Either that or they will move “at the speed of business” and implement a disaster that has no buy-in, is totally ineffective, and ruins the public school system.

    Of course, maybe that latter is the intend after all…

  • Real Get Real

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you or have you been a teacher? 

  • Beca117

    That’s the first thing wrong w/ your statement – 1) Most teachers are NOT ineffective and 2) Money does NOT motivate teachers

    Toledo Schools a while back tried to implement a 20% bonus/pay increase to attract teachers to their inner city/low performing schools to try to increase test scores..   NO ONE TOOK IT!!!

    It’s hard to work in these low performing schools.

  • Annekarima
  • Opinionated

    Compensation is an awful way to motivate people. Studies have been showing this for decades. it works only to stifle creativity, which explains why it can motivate people to do repetitive, mundane tasks. If the politicians are interested only in drone teachers building up drone students then it will work marvelously.

  • Real Get Real

    Beca117,

    I agree.  My post is pointing out the fallacy of the GOP approach.  The GOP thinks all teachers are lazy and incompetent and hence need infantilized with such demeaning provisions as SB5 and the budget bill “merit pay”.   My point is that MOST teachers are actually very good and professionals working in difficult situations.

    Teachers want a decent living.  I begin to wonder why I sacrifice for other people’s kids when now my kids have to suffer at the hands of Kasich and his crusade to get rid of teachers or cut pay.   My kids will never see college now due to Kasich and the GOP, but I’m sure his kids will attend only the finest universities.

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