One thing appears certain for next school year — the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) will once again undergo changes.  With the second year of the statewide implementation of the system not even finished, the Ohio General Assembly is already working to change the rules for year three.  While teachers and principals are still acclimating to the changes adopted last summer, they can all expect to arrive back in August to a process that will look different.  The only question at this point is how different?

Multiple pieces of legislation making their way through the Ohio House and Senate contain provisions that seek to change rules and components of how and when teachers throughout the state are evaluated.  While the elected legislators will simply call this a matter of “tweaking” the system, every little change ultimately has far-reaching effects for everyone.

Ever since 2011, with Senate Bill 5, the Ohio General Assembly has been promoting the concept of merit pay for teachers based on the state’s evaluation system.  Since then, based on a strong push be the state to adopt merit-based compensation components, some school districts and teacher unions across the state have already entered into contracts that include varied stipulations based on a teachers’ OTES rating.  Every time the legislators tinker with the metrics that lead to a final rating, these agreements undergo fundamental changes that alter the results and undermine the locally negotiated contract process.

Instead of being a single, comprehensive, well-thought-out and tested system, OTES is simply a mishmash of various pieces and patches with numerous conflicting and gap-filled components that even the Ohio Department of Education cannot accurately interpret nor help schools implement with confidence.

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Here are some of the proposed changes for the 2015-16 school year (so far).

Senate Bill 3 (as passed by the Senate):

  • Modifies the alternative framework for teacher evaluations, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, by increasing (to 50%) the teacher performance measure (current law requires 42.5% to 50%), decreasing (to 35%) the student academic growth measure (current law requires 42.5% to 50%).
  • Removes the requirement that the teacher performance measure and the student academic growth measure be an equal percentage of each evaluation (under the alternative framework).
  • Specifies that the remainder of each evaluation must be one (as under current law) or any combination (as added by the bill) of the following: (a) student surveys, (b) teacher self-evaluations, (c) peer review evaluations, and (d) student portfolios. The bill
    also adds to the list of permissible components “any other component determined appropriate” by the district board or school governing authority.  Additionally, the bill modifies a provision requiring each district or school to use one of the instruments approved by the Department of Education when evaluating the component chosen for the remainder of each evaluation. Instead, the bill permits, but does not require, districts and schools to use the approved instruments when evaluating the component or components chosen.
  • Specifies that if the State Board prescribes an assessment for participants in the Ohio Teacher Residency Program, each district or school may (1) require the participant to pass that assessment, or (2) assess the participant using the participant’s annual teacher evaluation. (Currently, districts and schools must conduct an annual evaluation under OTES for each teacher participating in the Ohio Teacher Residency Program.)

House Bill 74 (in House Education Committee):

  • House Bill 74 proposes a myriad of changes to state and district assessments and testing time allowed, all of which have ultimately would serve to have a direct effect on the Student Growth Measures portion of a teacher’s evaluation rating.
  • The bill requires the State Board to create procedures for evaluating the Student Growth Measures component if a district, school, or ESC must either use the value-added progress dimension or the alternative student academic progress measure or administer the student assessments that “measure mastery of the course content for the appropriate grade level, which may include nationally-normed standardized assessments, industry certification examinations, or end-of-course examinations.” It also requires the State Board to provide guidance to districts for the evaluation of the Student Growth Measures component if the district, school, or ESC must establish and use a method for determining the  Student Growth Measures based on the bill.
  • The bill modifies the system of evaluating the Student Growth Measures component in the table below (from the LSC Analysis):

HB74 table

House Bill 64 (Budget Bill; still in committee.  This bill proposes the most changes and has direct conflicts with Senate Bill 3 above. Details are from the LSC Analysis):

  • The bill removes the contingency that, in order for a teacher who was rated as “accomplished” to be evaluated on a less frequent basis, the teacher must also receive a student academic growth measure of at least “average.” It also removes the requirement
    that an evaluator must conduct an observation of, and hold a conference with, a teacher who was rated as “accomplished.”
  • Beginning with the teacher evaluations for the 2015-2016 school year, the bill makes changes to the calculation of the student growth factor portion of a teacher evaluation for teachers for whom value-added data from assessments, either state assessments or approved-vendor assessments, is unavailable. For such teachers, the student growth factor must be determined using the method established in accordance with guidance issued by the Department of Education. It may count for less than 50% but not less than 25% of the teacher’s total evaluation. The percentage is to be determined by the district board. Since the bill creates a new method for determining student growth, it also removes the requirement that teacher evaluation framework adopted by the State Board identify measures of student academic growth for grade levels and subjects for which the value-added progress dimension or an alternative student academic progress measure does not apply.
  • The bill requires the State Board, by October 31, 2015 [well after the school year has begun], to update the standards-based
    teacher evaluation framework to conform with the new provisions. School district boards, for the teacher evaluations beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, also must update their standards-based teacher evaluation policies.
  • The bill updates the percentages in the alternate teacher evaluation framework to reflect the changes of the bill as follows: (1) 42.5 to 75% for the teacher performance measure; (2) 25 to 50% for the student academic performance measure; (3) Not more than 15% for one of the following: student surveys, teacher self-evaluations, peer review evaluations, or student portfolios.
  • The bill requires each district board and school governing authority to annually report, for each teacher evaluation conducted, the individual component measures and ratings assigned to the teacher, the overall rating assigned to the teacher, and the data used to calculate each rating under the evaluation. Specifically, the individual components and ratings that must be reported are as follows: (1) The student academic growth measure and the teacher observation rating, if the district did not use the alternative framework.  (2) The student academic growth measure, the teacher performance measure, and any other measure assigned to that teacher (which may include student surveys, teacher self-evaluations, peer review evaluation, or student portfolios), if the district used the alternative framework.
  • The bill also permits districts and schools, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, to forgo evaluations for teachers participating in the residency program for the year during which those teachers take, for the first time, the majority of the assessment required under the program [RESA]. Currently, districts and schools must conduct an annual evaluation under OTES for each teacher participating in the program.

There’s also House Bill 7 – the “student safe harbor” bill that has already been adopted.  Regardless of one’s opinion on the bill, the fact that it essentially diminishes the importance of all tests this year (minus the 3rd-Grade Reading OAA) will likely ultimately result in lower student test scores and, subsequently, lower teacher, school, and district ratings.  As demonstrated by the growing opt-out movement and vocal opposition to growing number of tests, students and parents are sick of it all and could care less about the results of the tests and more about what their children are actually learning under the guidance of their teachers (when time permits, of course).

In addition to all of the pieces and parts above that will likely result in more confusion in implementation of OTES next year as they won’t likely be fully adopted and interpreted until the school year actually begins (see October 31, 2015 deadline above), value-added results for next school year are not projected to be released for schools and districts until after January, with teacher ratings not likely to come out until …. at least two months(?) after that.   For districts using shared attribution, this means that teachers won’t know their student growth rating until halfway through the school year, and for teachers receiving an individual value-added rating, they won’t know their result — from the previous year — until the next evaluation cycle is virtually over!

For a system that is, on its best days, supposed to be about helping teachers improve their practice to ultimately improve student learning, receiving this type of “content-based” feedback a full 7-8 months into the next school year is beyond absurd.

Furthermore, the ever-changing targets for teachers are doing absolutely NOTHING to help build anyone’s belief in this system that was supposed to transform the profession.

Constantly changing the rules in the middle of the game is something that even Kindergartners know is wrong, so why is it that Ohio’s legislators are unable to comprehend the same simple concept?

 

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