New teacher evaluation system set to begin

Some school districts, next school year, will begin implementing Ohio’s new teacher evaluation system that will be based equally on teacher performance and student growth measures.

Other districts are slated to start using the new, more extensive assessments during the 2014-15 school year.

The evaluations, mandated under state law, are part of a nationwide effort to maintain federal funding and improve classroom instruction. In Ohio, the change also is designed to prepare students and teachers for new academic content standards that will be implemented in 2014-15 and to create uniformity across the state.

Some educators have voiced concern about various elements of the evaluations — from the accuracy of value-added student growth data, the limited time principals have to conduct classroom observations and that evaluations would be used to determine whether to promote, retain or remove a teacher.

Some area districts, including Dayton Public, Beavercreek, Northmont, Mad River, New Lebanon, Tipp City and Xenia, participated in pilot programs to help set up the framework for the state’s teacher evaluation model, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES).

The model would be implemented next school year by districts that received federal Race to the Top funding, while those districts with School Improvement Grant dollars would implement it over the next three years, Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said.

Debbie Baker, Northmont’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology, said this year’s pilot program at the high school and an elementary school went well.

“We learned that it takes a lot of time to complete the teacher performance side of the evaluation,” she said, estimating the teacher performance component could take anywhere from 10-15 hours of principal time to complete.

Lori Ward, superintendent of Dayton Public Schools where the OTES was piloted in seven SIG schools this year, said it gave them a better understanding of the resources required for all of the district’s schools to go through the evaluation process next school year.

“It’s an intensive amount of time required to do it right,” Ward said. “I’m going to be particulary interested in my staff’s viewpoints on the time, especially in buildings that don’t have assistant principals.” Six prek-8 schools don’t have assistant principals.

Northmont’s Baker is concerned about the student performance part of the evaluation because “50 percent of some teachers’ evaluations will be based on a test that a student takes one day out of the year,” she said. “Value-added procedures are coming under attack from all over the country but we are still going to attach 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to that data.”

Value-added scores chart whether districts have exceeded, met or not met expected growth on fourth-through eighth-grade math and reading tests as compared to the previous year.

Melodie Larsen, a fifth-grade teacher at E.J. Brown PreK-8 School in Dayton Public, was among several area teachers evaluated under the new system this year.

Larsen has been teaching in the district for 26 years. She spent 25 of those years teaching kindergartners before she was assigned to a fifth-grade class.

She received a good evaluation showing she is proficient, but she hoped it would have been better in some areas. “I felt like she at least seemed to understand the idea wasn’t to be punitive, it was to try to build teaching skills,” she said.

Larsen’s biggest concern is that basing 50 percent of the teacher evaluation on student growth measures gives an “unfair advantage to teachers in high performing districts over low performing districts.”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, has proposed reducing the percentage of the value-added data component from 50 percent of the teachers’ rating to 35 percent. The remaining 15 percent would be made up by teacher-developed assessments to periodic assessments, said David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association, the teachers’ union representing about 1,130 Dayton Public teachers.

Romick thinks OTES is a fair system though he seems some pitfalls in administrators being so pressed for time and so much emphasis put on student growth measures. He said value-added measures can have a 30 percent margin of error so he supports Lehner’s effort to reduce the percentage and add locally created assessments.

“I think anytime you leave how you’re going to measure teachers and student growth up to the local district — to the extent that you can — you’re better off because that district knows its population and knows how to best serve that clientele,” he said.

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