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?