In Reynoldsburg, a small suburb east of Columbus, the district and teachers have entered into negotiations on a new contract.  The proposal from the School Board displays a complete lack of understanding of the research surrounding best practices as well as the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

The Board’s proposal includes two very significant changes from traditional contracts described in a slick marketing flyer (see end of post).

First, the elimination of health coverage provided by the school district:

The Board will convert its current spending on one-size-fits-all health insurance coverage to cash payments directly to employees.

The amount of this “cash payment” is not described in the documentation and there is no indication of whether it would be projected to increase annually along with the projected rate of increase of health insurance costs.

Second, and more importantly, the Board proposes using the results of Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System to determine whether or not teachers would get pay raises.  Not only does this fly in the face of numerous research studies that  show that merit pay is not an incentive for teachers, but it also displays a complete lack of understanding of how the state’s evaluation system works.  The Board proposes to grant teachers rated Accomplished (the highest overall rating) a 4 percent raise.  Skilled teachers would get a 2 percent raise, Developing teachers would earn a 1 percent raise, and teachers rated in the lowest category, Ineffective, would not get a pay bump.

From the School Board’s marketing proposal:

  • While we provide that there will be no reductions in pay under our proposal, we tie future increases to student learning, with results being a significant – but not exclusive – factor in future compensation decisions.
  • The plan provides that our truly great teachers earn substantially more than teachers who have not yet attained that status.
  • The compensation plan will be fair, accurate and rigorous, and will be applied uniformly throughout the district.

Let’s break these points down.

First, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System originated in the Educator Standards Board and was designed to be a “growth model” for educators.  It was designed to identify areas of strength and areas where teachers had challenges in order to help them identify ways to improve their practices annually.  In this way, there is never an endpoint for a teacher; it’s not a “final grade”, but is instead always a point-in-time evaluation that seeks to help each individual teacher continually evaluate and improve.

The three bullet points above also presume that each teacher is evaluated identically – a premise that could not be further from the truth.  In reality, teacher’s have widely varying factors involved in their daily work that would absolutely prevent the plan from being “applied uniformly throughout the district” and would, in practice, allow the Reynoldsburg Board and administration to game the system to reach their desired outcomes.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Teachers of reading and math in grades 4-8 are required by state law to use value-added results based on the state-mandated Ohio Achievement Assessments over which they have no control; tests that are not even publicly released after they are given.  Teachers in other grades/subjects demonstrate student growth using other, locally defined measures.  In some cases these may be teacher-created assessments with teacher-identified learning goals.  In other cases, as I suspect Reynoldsburg would opt for, the district gets to dictate the assessments and learning targets for students — targets based on someone’s random opinion and not vetted on the same level as the Ohio Achievement Assessments.  In this way, linking compensation increases to future decisions in pay is not “uniform” in any definition of the word.
  2. By state law, and as reported to the state of Ohio, only those educators who teach students 50% of the time or more are subject to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.  Non-classroom educators, such as guidance counselors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, school nurses, psychologists, etc., have different requirements as they do not have the same direct responsibility for the delivery and assessment of subject-matter content.  These educators are at the mercy of the administration and School Board for their model of evaluation.  In some cases, these individuals are simply linked to the value-added results of the building(s) in which they work, a system called shared attribution. These educators would have absolutely no say in their student growth results.  Again, not “uniform”.
  3. Some teachers are actually “exempt” from the student growth measures component of the state’s evaluation system.  If an educator (think teachers serving small groups of students with multiple disabilities) has six or fewer students in a class, they do not qualify for demonstrating academic growth of their students as the population is too small to be statistically reliable.  These teachers might then have their entire evaluation outcome based on the opinions of their evaluator.
  4. At least half of a teacher’s entire evaluation is based on a designation identified by their evaluator (often the principal or assistant principal).  The evaluator visits the classroom setting multiple times throughout the year to observe and gather evidence that is based on the OTES rubric.  The evaluator also meets with the teacher at least four times to discuss their observations and gather more evidence through these discussions.  At the end of the year, after a minimum of eight interactions with the teacher, the evaluator considers all of the evidence they have gathered and then simply assigns a final rating based on their holistic opinion (Accomplished, Skilled, Developing, or Ineffective) of what they have observed.  This assigned rating is weighted to be at least half of the final rating.  If this compensation model is agreed to, it is very easy to imagine Reynoldsburg’s principals being given specific quotas as far as assigning final ratings, especially as money in the district gets tight and they simply can’t afford too many Accomplished or Skilled teachers.
  5. This compensation model offers no incentive for the school district to help teachers improve.  The district does not receive additional funding from any source based on the ratings of its teachers.  In this proposal, if teachers continually improve and advance across the levels — from Developing to Skilled or Skilled to Accomplished — it merely causes the district to have to find additional funding to compensate these teachers.  Therefore, the district has no financial incentive to help its teachers improve (the very foundation of the system), yet every financial incentive to keep teachers in the lower categories.
  6. Evaluation results from the Ohio Department of Education do not follow the school year schedule, delaying compensation decisions for some teachers, but not for others.  For those teachers relying on their individual teacher-level value-added reports (grades 4-8 reading and/or math only), those results were not released until November 15 last year.  They were originally scheduled for a September release date, still well after the school year begins.  Because these results are released late (previous year’s evaluation outcomes are legislated to be reported by early May), these testing outcomes are applied on the following year’s evaluation, meaning that any teacher who did advance their rating based on student performance would have any pay raise delayed by a full year, while those teachers using the district-level assessments would receive their pay raises in the very next school year.  Again, not “fair, accurate, or applied uniformly throughout the district” as the School Board claims.

These are simply a few of the numerous reasons that this proposal is utterly ignorant.  We’d love to hear from other teachers in the comments about your experiences with the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System this year with even more reasons this compensation plan is fatally flawed.  Why would you never accept such an absurd proposal?


Here is the full marketing flyer from the Reynoldsburg School Board:

Compensation Plan 2014



  • Think.

    This idea looks like something from John Kasich’s agenda. His BFF, Richard Ross, must still have some influence over the Reynoldsburg School Board.

  • duckmonkeyman

    The OTES only penalizes great teachers who work with the most difficult students. Reynoldsburg must have missed the Vanderbilt POINT experimental study amongst others demonstrating such haphazard incentive plans destroy collaboration and have no positive effect. Or maybe they missed the press release from the American Statistical Association warning about the misapplication of value-added measures now nationwide and a warning to be evidence based?

    Sounds like ignorance and a lack of reality guide the Reynoldsburg School Board. They will become the laughing stock of Ohio.

  • becca

    In my district, teachers were to use one of the approved vendor assessments. There was a test at the beginning of the year. a test at the end of the semester. The end of quarter exams and the end of year tests were scheduled for the end of the year (end of May).

    Ooops – OTES needs to be finished May 1. All teachers were forced to take shared attribution – many teachers fell from Skilled to Developing or Ineffective because that was a 1, 2, or 3. All first year teachers were forced to take a 1 (district rating)

    And ALL because someone else didn’t know what they were doing. Evaluate me on what I have control over – not the testing schedule.

    The person(s) who can’t make the right testing schedule doesn’t have their evaluation slaughtered to the lambs like teachers all over our district.

  • becca

    Evaluators meeting 8 times thru-out the year w/ the teacher?? Ha!!! While that is best practice, it is not mandated. My principal NEVER EVER EVER walked thru my classroom except on the 2 days she did the observations. I read what she wrote – I have no idea whose class she was in, but it sure didn’t sound like mine.

    She NEVER EVER even discussed what was written on that evaluation – which was copied and pasted from semester 1 to semester 2.

    Again – my pay could be tied to an evaluation that someone doesn’t have a grasp on because it is such a long, lengthy, time consuming process??!!

  • Kurt Dieckmann

    What catches my eye is the insurance thing (forgetting about the rest of the proposal for a minute) that says “…employees will select and purchase the level of insurance that’s right for them — and keep the change.”

    If I read it correctly, I get to pick the insurance that’s right for me, the district pays me cash and I “keep the change” — which infers the district is going to fully cover my premiums and then some…because I only get to “keep the change” if that cash payout they give me covers 100% of my premium costs, right?

    So let’s say the insurance that’s “right for me” is a medical/dental/vision family plan with zero-deductible/no co-pay/no minimum policy where all my medical services are provided with no cash out of pocket. That’d be a crazy expensive premium…but my teacher contract says I get paid cash and “keep the change” which means the District has to be paying me more than my premiums cost. Even if the change I keep is only a penny, I wind up with full health coverage paid for by the district via cash payments to me. Nice.

  • anastasjoy

    And what if, as is even more likely, pretty much all decent insurance is more than whatever amount of cash they give you and you have to pay out of pocket to get decent coverage, especially as premiums go up and the cash payout probably doesn’t — or even gets cut as districts run into financial issues? And now, don’t you have to pay taxes on all this cash which you didn’t have to pay previously on your health coverage? Seems to me this is going to be an expensive hit for teachers. Vouchers (which is basically what this is) are never a good deal for ordinary people.

  • amyvav

    Thanks, Greg, for the heads up. We will be negotiating a wage re-opener on Wednesday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of districts angling for plans like this one. You have pretty much covered all the bases on why this is a ridiculous way to compensate teachers. The possibilities for dishonesty, favoritism, manipulation, and general malfeasance are endless, and given what is happening with the no-renewals in Cleveland, the future looks grim if they pull this off. As for the insurance, I have been to a number of meetings on the Affordable Care Act, and the Cadillac Tax portion is looming on the horizon. I foresee many districts looking for ways to compensate for insurance other than offering an in-house plan. It may not be a bad idea except for the tendency that districts have to keep as much money as possible away from teachers.

    All the comments on this post are dead on – and people need to pay attention to them. None of the difficulties and scenarios offered are uncommon or inconceivable. Unfortunately.

  • VAMsmell

    Another significant flaw in such a system is that 50% of the OTES evaluation final score for a teacher is based on the SAS/EVAAS Value Added Model (VAM), the formula for which is a proprietary secret, in other words, SAS is making money off of it so it is a trade secret so we all have to just “trust” SAS/EVAAS and ODE that the data is valid and reliable when the American Statistical Association has come out with a written statement declaring the VAM statistically unsuitable to be used for teacher evaluation purposes! In other words, the whole OTES system is a junk science sham – chicken poop in the system, chicken poop out! Where are the teachers’ unions? They have all the artillery in the world to attack and blow up this sham system that is screwing their dues paying members and we hear absolutely nothing from them on this issue!

    Additionally, because the OTES/OPES scores have to be submitted by May, all of the standardized testing has to be completed by mid-April, which means the school year is now 2 months shorter and teachers are being graded in their evaluations on a YEAR’S WORTH of GROWTH with only 7 months to achieve it!

  • Think.

    You are so right- the VAM smells fowl as chicken dung!

  • amyvav

    BTW: They have a typo in their spiffy flyer: “Here are some of the basics concepts…” UGH!

  • amyvav

    This may end up being a plus. Evaluating employees using data that cannot be independently verified or disputed sounds like potential lawsuit grounds. IF the unions at the state level get on top of things, which they do not seem to be right now. I have been increasingly annoyed by their lack of action for a few years now.

  • VAMsmell

    The teachers’ unions have actually been complicit to date – playing along to get along while taking in over $800.00 per member per year and leaving them to hang out to dry on OTES. They neve would have accepted such a system from their administrators.

  • Michael Smith

    What you state is certainly not going to be how this works. What it will be (I’d bet a pretty penny) is this:

    The district takes its current $ expenditure on health care and divides it equally among employees under the contract. That way they claim they aren’t cutting spending on health care. You can bet that $ figure they arrive at won’t be increasing either, though.

    Then with that $ you are expected to buy your own health insurance on the individual market. If you have a spouse who has health coverage you can ride, you’ll likely be in decent shape. If not, though, things get VERY ugly VERY fast.

    Why? Because if the district isn’t sponsoring (even without direct contributions) health plans in a cafeteria plan, that cash payment will count as taxable income. 12% will be deducted for your pension, 1.45% for medicare and then you pay income taxes on what’s left. For many people this means that they’ll only end up with 60 cents or so on the dollar with which to buy health insurance. So the district’s portion of your insurance WAS worth $6,000, they give you $6,000 to go buy your own plan, of which you end up with ~$3,600 after tax. Now you have to take $2,400 of your own money after tax (or ~$4000 pre-tax) to make up the difference. Net, they’ve just effectively cut your salary. They don’t save anything now, but they don’t increase that payment later, thus protecting themselves from future increases in premiums.

    Oh, and for the pay increase proposal, it is pretty easy to show how this actually has the long term effect of cutting average pay significantly. They may want the best, but they’re showing they aren’t willing to pay for it.

  • Michael Smith

    Unless the health insurance is considerably more generous there than in the Cincinnati area, you’ll be nowhere NEAR the cadillac tax limits, so that tax should be a non-issue.

  • tt

    The article doesn’t fully understand the use of student growth or value-added. For instance, next year’s EVAAS reports will be an average of a teacher’s growth for the last two-years, and beginning with the reports from the 14-15 school year a three year average will be used henceforth. Sure, new teachers or teachers on a change of assignment will be an exception to this rule, however the author qualifies the performance of a teacher when arguing that the growth a teacher earns in one year is delayed until the next years evaluation like it is a stand alone thing. The three year average actually stabilizes the growth score to a reasonable extent. Also, the implication that a district would use quotas is awfully bold to assert. However, you are asserting this in a very biased professional blog. I do agree that student growth measures are not currently equitable however. I have no position no this contract issue.

  • amyvav

    tt: First of all, the article, as you state it, cannot fully understand anything. It could, however, if it were booklet-length, fully explain the use of student growth or value-added data. If anyone were to fully explain it, Greg would be an excellent source, biased or not. Your facts and conclusion regarding the averaging of data are correct. But, if a teacher is attempting to improve, as OTES intends, and the most current year is not included in the average, it is still an inherently unfair system, especially if the teacher’s improvement could trigger a pay increase. The system is made even more unfair by the absolute refusal of anyone involved to fully explain the data manipulation to any teachers. I have personally been told in training sessions that it is simply “too complex” for mere teachers to understand. Also, the “implication that a district would use quotas” is “awfully bold”, and awfully insightful and timely.

    As a teacher, I am infuriated and mortified by this attempt by a school district to bastardize what could be a beneficial and forward-thinking evaluation system by turning it into a “gotcha” money-saving monster designed to manipulate and hand-pick staff.

    I appreciate your sharing your point of view. I guess my view of things, having been involved in a number of negotiations and educational upheavals over the years, is more jaded than yours.

  • amyvav


  • tt

    :). Thanks for the grammar correction. Also, I was explicit to take no position on the position of the negotiations. I was simply speaking to the three year average. If Ohio were using an SGP or another VAM rather than EVAAS, then perhaps they could obtain the student growth measure for the teacher quicker. However, would it be as accurate. I would challenge that you, or I, or many would be hard pressed to understand most growth models as they are very sophisticated equations. The EVAAS methodology is not secret, and you could learn about it by reading the literature if you wanted to. The only thing that is proprietary is the software that calculates the score. I understand your not liking that, but it appears you are more against the calculation of student growth scores as a whole. However, I don’t want to speak for you.

  • gregmild

    Yes, my bias is as a professional educator and is no more biased than the Reynoldsburg School Board’s propaganda flyer.

    Regarding the delayed release of Value-Added Teacher-level reports, the fact still stands that any benefit that the teacher might have realized from increasing student achievement, and subsequently improving their Final Summative Rating, in the most recent school year would delay their raise for a full year, while those teachers using local measures, such as Student Learning Objectives, could realize the raise in the very next school year. This is simply not “fair, accurate, or applied uniformly throughout the district” as the School Board claims in their document.

  • amyvav

    We’ve been led to believe that it will meet the limit, but I will research further on my own so that we’re prepared. Also, thanks for your breakdown of the actual dollar contribution after taxes if a district goes to that. I will have your figures at hand during negotiations tomorrow. I appreciate you taking the time to share!

  • amyvav

    Thanks for your response! I do not usually comment this much on threads, which has enlightened me to how passionate I feel about the whole situation. I do not, philosophically, agree with the calculation or use of student growth measures. As my former career was in business, I have noticed for years that business models and terminology have been slowly filtered into the world of education. I agree that teachers’ performance needs to be evaluated in some kind of subjective manner. But, I do not agree that the way to do that is to test our product (the students) over and over in order to adjust the machines (teachers) who manufacture the products.

    As for the growth models, I am sure that they are very sophisticated, and maybe I wouldn’t understand them. However, if those models are going to be used to determine my competence as it is reported to the public, I should have access to them, and to the complete student data that is used. I have never attempted to acquire this, but I’m betting I would be unsuccessful.

  • tt

    To your last point, I’m sure you would. I think the overall argument of whether to use growth or not is too complex to solve in one blog. But there are other models that are used in many other businesses. Predictive models are used in business all the time. Access to them? I get it, and again don’t really have an argument. As in my earlier posts, I really don’t take a position for or against growth models, but rather I see them as, they’re here, Ohio has embedded the use of “a” growth model into legislation, and ODE has recently renewed their contract with SAS EVAAS for the next four years. So absent a legislative change (which is always possible), or a successful lawsuit, EVAAS is here and we just learn how to work with it. I think the real value comes in the diagnostic reports, which can be used to improve instruction. But we all know that when high stakes implications, especially in the first year, are tied to this model, it really changes how the model results are used. I’ve enjoyed the conversation, thank you:).

  • tt

    Fair or accurate, that’s subjective. It could be accurate, it may not be fair, and you’re right, its not exactly uniform, but it is as uniform as the law allows. Again, I have no position, I just don’t have the emotion in this, just reading the article because I have an interest in educational research, and a friend asked me to look at this to provide feedback. So on the research side, the concept of measuring student growth is fascinating. The problem may lie with the assessments, in all of the SGM forms Ohio currently has (VAM, Vendor Approved, SLO, etc.).

  • Michael Smith

    To be fair, if they offer the payment into a cafeteria plan where there are multiple insurance plans offered, this isn’t an issue. I highly suspect this is NOT what they’re offering, but I could be wrong.

    I can understand that they might want to contain health care costs, but there are much better ways to do so. They can limit their $ contribution, and have all increases (or those above a certain level) come from employees. There’s nothing preventing that from being written into a contract.

    Personally, I think a positive response from the union would be to offer to tie employee shares of health insurance premiums to the average share reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for professionals in large firms. That would be offering a way to say that you pay the same % of premiums as the general public in professional fields. As they go, you go. For most districts, this actually isn’t much of a stretch from current levels, but it is a very good symbolic gesture to tie the two together.

  • gregmild

    Yes, the assessments used in the SGM portion of the system vary widely, especially when we talk about statistical significance, validity, and reliability.

  • VAMsmell

    tt, you are incorrect, the EVAAS model metric is a secret and here is the proof from a Sunday, June 16, 2013 article published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    “The details of how the
    scores are calculated aren’t public. The Ohio Department of Education will pay
    a North Carolina-based company, SAS
    Institute Inc., $2.3 million this year to do
    value-added calculations for teachers and schools. The company has released
    some information on its value-added model but declined to release key details
    about how Ohio teachers’ value-added scores are calculated.

    The Education
    Department doesn’t have a copy of the full model and data rules either.

    The department’s top
    research official, Matt Cohen, acknowledged that he can’t explain the details
    of exactly how Ohio’s value-added model works. He said that’s not a problem.

    “It’s not
    important for me to be able to be the expert,” he said. “I rely on
    the expertise of people who have been involved in the field.”

    And Amyvav, I have directly, on multiple occasions, requested the EVAAS VAM formula from ODE and they have never responded!

    Finally, I resent the suggestions in this thread that educators are not capable of understanding these “complex formulas”. I’m a mathematical/data geek who has studied math at the highest levels, I was also one of the first 200 people in the state of Ohio trained in Batttelle’s VAM back in 2004 and the Battelle folks did a great job of making the theory completely understandable to us dumb educators. The problem is that it is just that: a theory. And the theory is that you can mathematically eliminate all factors affecting student achievement, which are well documented to be many and various (see John Hattie’s meta-analysis, Visible Learning, 2008), and simply attribute all student progress to the teacher, which is a theory that is under serious attack now by even the American Statistical Association!

  • amyvav

    Thank you! Well said. I am often reminded of the saying, “Those who can do, and those who can’t teach.” Too many people in power (including their own administrators for some) adhere to this adage. I am a bit of a geek myself, although my interests lean more toward things neurological and quantum. I actually deplore working with data, but I do it anyway and understand it thoroughly. I am absolutely confident that I could understand their flawed theory as well as the data manipulation and interpretation involved. If this were a proposal for a study, it would never be approved. The variables are endless, and the theory completely ignores cognitive and developmental factors that must be recognized. The reliance on this data is causing at the least a disservice, and at the worst direct harm, to our students’ development.

  • Michael Smith

    For the record, I’ve worked with people from SAS before and they have been (without exception) highly intelligent people who truly understand data deeper than anyone else in the room. I believe VAM is actually fairly sound – they’ll admit it isn’t perfect simply because of statistical variation, but it is about as good as you get.

    The problem isn’t so much VAM but the tests and the application of VAM to individual teachers. No test is perfect. Give the same child the same test 10 times on 10 different days and you’ll get 10 different scores. You have to account for that variability. You have to account for the variability among the student body. One teacher may get a set of excellent students, one may get a set of abused students. When you get to the district level and have thousands of students, you can get a pretty good measure of how well the district is doing compared to other similar districts. This can be invaluable in helping figure out what is working in different locations and trying to replicate that elsewhere. But when you take the same method and apply it to the individual teacher and have a much smaller sample, even SAS will tell you that the data is too confounded in statistical noise and sampling anomalies to be appropriate to use.

    But even WORSE are the alternative assessments for those who can’t use OAA (point 1 in the article above). I’ve seen districts do absolutely ludicrous things here – such as use of Aimsweb data in a manner such that it is trivial to mathematically prove that it is nearly impossible for a teacher to achieve a rating of “skilled”. Why? Because they ignore variability in their test results and rate the teacher based on the percent of students showing at least one year of growth (no partial credit). It’s simple to show that if there is ANY level of variability in the test scores that averaging a perfect 1 year of growth means only half the students will show at least 1 year, even if statistically you have zero basis for saying you know the other half didn’t have at least one year’s growth and it was just lost in the variability of the test scores.

    The worst system I’ve seen would have required that students show an average of about 1.4 years’ worth of growth each year for a teacher to receive an “accomplished” rating, 1.26 years’ worth for “skilled”, and 1.17 for “developing”.

    YES, it really is that bad. These fools (NOT SAS – their employees have aneurysms when I describe this system) have no idea how to handle variability and as a result have designed an evaluation system that could have every single teacher achieving absolutely stellar results and still end up labeled “ineffective”. Some are lucky and reach “developing”…. but none do better. And they don’t question their system.

  • skoolteacher

    Great information. Too bad “information” doesn’t drive the important discussions in the Birthplace of the Tomato!

  • BOLO

    So the school district will now have to pay federal payroll taxes on this new income, and the school employee will have to pay personal federal income taxes on this new income. The IRS wins!

  • Ed

    I agree Cadillac Tax is 27500 on family plan and 10200 on single plan and is still two years until it comes into effect. Most districts are no where close to that. The reality is that most insurance plans are in consortiums and they need to go into self-funding, where your premium dollars actually work for you and can buy down future increases. The real issue that districts are not facing and will effect insurance programs is the penalties for employees that without insurance ie. subs, coaches, tutors that will occur fairly soon. I see school systems pushing this off on the employers backs. I know some school systems are looking to have county wide sub systems through their ESCs and thus penalties will occur through this county funded program. Yet all subs will be shared county-wide. This will be a mess.
    I have sat and chaired our self-funded insurance program for over 9 years. I would never go back to a consortium.

  • Ed

    The district offers this because they can better forecast their 5 year plan, by giving you a set amount. The reality is that you have better buying power as a group then going at it alone. I would be interested in hearing the dollar amount that they are willing to give.

  • Ed

    Well said!!

  • Ed

    OTES is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Wait until a Columbus City School teacher gets fired over OTES and then they hire a good lawyer and they bring up the issues with their faulty test data and how it was used as part of the evaluation method. LAWSUIT WON!

  • amyvav

    I think it well have to come to that, but I hate to see anyone have to go through all that. I’d love to see someone subpoena some of the actual test scorers to see what really goes on with that. It is ludicrous that we can’t see the test or the students’ responses. Our jobs depend upon something that we have no way to authenticate or verify.

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