Saturday, March 17, 2012

Student performance will now make up 50 percent of teacher evaluations in Ohio

By Jill Kelley, Staff Writer (Dayton Daily Newspaper)

Student performance will now make up 50 percent of teacher evaluations in Ohio under a new law requiring school districts to adopt more extensive assessments.
This change, as mandated by the governor’s budget bill passed in June and set to go into effect next year, is part of a nationwide effort to maintain federal funding and improve classroom instruction.
“Many states that are looking at this right now, and a lot of them are tied to Race to the Top grants,” said Patrick Gallaway, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.
The remaining half of the evaluation will be based on a teacher’s growth.
“In other states, you might see that there’s just this sense of a call to action about how we help our students who are struggling academically,” Gallaway said.
Large-scale state budget cuts, an increasing shift to merit-based pay, greater focus on spending at every level, and federal Race to the Top grants requiring teacher evaluations that measure student improvement have all helped motivate legislators to develop new requirements.
At the same time, job security across the country has weakened, drawing attention to how teachers and other public employees are compensated.
In Ohio, this change in evaluations also is designed to prepare teachers and students for new academic content standards that will be implemented in 2014-15 and to create a uniformity across the state.
“Before, it was hard to say why one school district is struggling when another one isn’t, and some of that could have gone down to how districts are evaluating their teachers,” Gallaway said.
To develop and refine the evaluations, last year the ODE assembled 138 districts and community schools for a pilot program. Locally, Northmont, Beavercreek, Mad River, New Lebanon, Tipp City, Troy and Xenia school districts, as well as Dayton Early College Academy, are helping to craft the framework developed by the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.
Student growth
Prior to the passage of House Bill 153, each Ohio district could adopt or develop its own evaluation system. Many used similar models with teacher performance criteria that will be used in the new evaluations, but there was no impetus to align the standards.
There also was no consistent or significant measure of student growth required in these evaluations, and how that will be measured is still being defined.
Since the student growth component will make up half of a teacher’s evaluation, local teachers and administrators have expressed concern about how to best measure it across subjects and grades.
Julia Simmerer, director of the ODE’s Office of Educator Standards, said growth would be determined by the value-added data from the state report card and other testing, and would be somewhat flexible within each school district.
Debbie Baker, director of curriculum, instruction and technology for Northmont City Schools, said she is in favor of the uniformity the new evaluations will bring, but the accuracy of the value-added data is a concern.
Value-added scores, implemented in 2003, 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.
“We’re not opposed to student growth figuring into our evaluations, but maybe we need a more proven system,” Baker said.
Kathy Harper, director of the ODE’s Office of Educator Equity and Talent, said she has confidence in the measure, but said it is just one aspect of that measure. “I also know that, year after year, as they get more and more data, it gets more reliable,” Harper said.
Time concern
Probably the biggest change for districts and schools will be the increased time needed to conduct these more intensive evaluations.
Teachers used to have smaller annual evaluations that could include one observation period, with more formal evaluations every two to five years. Instead, the new evaluations will be conducted annually and will include the student growth aspect and require multiple observations and conferences.
“We haven’t put it into dollar figures, but the new evaluations will take approximately three hours per person, annually,” said Deron Schwieterman, Beavercreek City Schools’ human resources director, noting that Beavercreek has 468 teachers. “I’m guessing now we probably spend an hour to an hour and a half per person, on average, each year for evaluations.”
New Lebanon Superintendent Barbara Curry agreed the time element will require adjustment.
“But, we’ve taken a proactive approach, and are reviewing building schedules and meeting schedules (to find time),” she said.
Classroom benefits
Even those with concerns about the new evaluations agreed that the new method will support teacher and student improvement.
“We have great optimism that this new evaluation will help us, and get great teachers recognized,” said Judy Hennessey, DECA superintendent. “And it will give us a more firm foundation to get teachers who are not effective removed.”
Centerville High School math teacher Brian Cayot, who also is president of the teachers’ union, said teachers want to make sure every student has a qualified, caring and committed teacher, and this system can help toward that end.
“All of us need to be held accountable: not just the teachers, but the parents, families, administrators, students,” he said. “Everybody has a stake in this.”
Key elements of Ohio teacher evaluation law

• Goes into effect in 2013-14 school year.
• Requires public schools to adopt a new teacher evaluation system, based 50 percent on teacher performance and 50 percent on teacher growth.
• Evaluates teachers annually, and includes two formal, 30-minute observation periods as well as periodic classroom walk-throughs.
• Allows teachers who are rated “accomplished” on their most recent evaluation to be evaluated every two years and districts to consider having top-rated teachers submit a portfolio in lieu of having a second classroom observation.
• Requires student growth to be measured by the value-added data, which applies to specific grades and subjects on the state report card; approved “vendor list,” or outside testing; and local measures, which would include testing before and after a student takes a specific class.
• Uses evaluations to determine whether to promote, retain or remove a teacher, and prohibits districts from considering seniority, except when deciding between teachers with comparable evaluations.
• Allocates financial resources to support professional development.
• Requires adoption by July 1, 2013 and implementation once current teacher contracts expire.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Volunteer State

After I became successful at supporting myself by performing local venues, I felt that it was time to give back to the same community that enabled me to live quite comfortably by playing the music I love.

Every so often, I would inform my band-mates that this months rehearsal would be at a local nursing home cafeteria or children's hospital. After all, why let all that music go to waste rattling around my empty house when there are people desperate for an emotional lift.

Once in a while, I would come across a substitute musician that would inform me that they won't perform in public for less than a certain fee (around $100). I would thank them for their honesty, but promptly replace them. I can understand that they need to make a living, but one benefit public rehearsal wasn't going to bankrupt them.

It is important to recognize that talent shouldn't be squandered. I am grateful for the tools I was given and realize that those same tools go disappear just as easily.

So the next time your ensemble is planning a rehearsal, pick up the phone and find an appreciative audience for a truly heartwarming experience for all concerned.

good gigging!

Larry Marra