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Teacher evaluation and the Common Core

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2013 11:19 AM

Lawmakers in Ohio are trying to pass a bill to change the state's teacher evaluation system, even though reforms were already enacted earlier this year. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Randy Gardner, would give teachers more time in between evaluations. It would also make teachers less accountable for their students' academic progress.

Many Ohio school administrators believe that the current system is hindering the effectiveness of both teachers and the principals that are administering the evaluations. Administrators argue that principals who are spending more time assessing the quality of teachers are prevented from performing more important administrative duties. Educators also argue that the added emphasis on student progress does not help teachers become better instructors.

Previous teacher evaluation reforms occurred in many states throughout the 1990s. The results of those evaluations showed that tenured teachers in many school districts were not encouraged by the reforms to acquire new knowledge or evolve their teaching patterns. In many cases within a privatized education setting, instructors were given carte blanche by administrators in regard to the methodologies used in the classroom. After observing the class, principals would have a short meeting to discuss the performance and go over a checklist with the teacher.

Issues concerning teacher evaluations
Evaluations like these brought up a few concerns for many education advocates. Most instructors would receive a satisfactory rating, offering little variability regarding evaluation. According to a report from, the evaluation results were also not indicative of the teachers' knowledge of the content or knowledge of subject pedagogies.

This created a sort of cognitive dissonance between the standards and teachers, and between teachers and their students. On one hand, the reform called for teachers to participate in advanced pedagogies, set a high standard of learning for their students and transform their current methodologies into the best modern practices. On the other, typical teacher evaluations sent a different message: You do not have to excel, only your students do.

Advocates of Ohio's teacher evaluation reform say that having less frequent assessments eases some of the pressure educators already feel from rigorous Common Core State Standards.

According to a statement made by state Sen. Peggy Lehner, chair of the education committee, "We recognize that our personnel in schools are feeling very stressed [and] we think it's important that [the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System} be implemented with integrity. We think this will allow people to do this with more integrity and be more willing to do it with more integrity."

However, the education advocacy group StudentsFirst Ohio argues that the less frequent evaluations deny teachers the feedback needed to improve their teaching skills and ensure the successful implementation of the Standards.

"You don't say to to a teacher we're going to do classroom observation … every couple years," StudentsFirst Ohio State Director Greg Harris told StateImpact Ohio. "That makes no logical sense if the goal is to develop teachers to be the best they can be."

The new reform guidelines
Up until 2012, Ohio's teacher evaluation system required principals to observe teachers every few years. The teachers were then graded based on that single performance. Under the new system of evaluations, half of an instructor's grade is based on observation and the other half is based on student test scores. These two assessments are combined to give instructors one of four possible grades: ineffective, developing, skilled or accomplished.

Changes to the system specified in Gardner's bill would include allowing school districts to evaluate teachers less frequently if they achieved a rating of "skilled" or "accomplished." "Skilled" teachers are individuals who are meeting expectations while "accomplished" teachers exceed expectations. In both cases, the teacher would only have to be evaluated every other year or every three years.

In addition to fewer evaluations, student progress would be given less weight under the new reforms. Only 35 percent of the educator's rating would be based on how much their students learned that year.