After a controversial change to a state law, what happens on the ground? This piece, from last month’s meeting of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, delves into one such case. In 2012, Ohio lawmakers approved the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), which requires evaluations be based on student-academic-growth measures, formal observations, and classroom walkthroughs. This study examines whether local teacher-collective-bargaining agreements negotiated after OTES was adopted allow the evaluation results to be used in personnel decisions (the authors called this “bridging”)—or if they protect experienced or tenured teachers’ jobs regardless of their evaluation scores (“buffering”). The authors found that all of the fifteen contracts they studied are essentially bridging when it came to evaluation policies, meaning that the contracts match well with state law and allow principals to use growth measures, observations, and walkthroughs when evaluating teachers. However, results were quite different when it came to actually using OTES to make decisions: the researchers discovered that four of five contracts are buffering when they examined a variety of specific provisions. For example, most contracts contain buffering provisions that keep seniority as a consideration when making reductions in force. Some even keep seniority as the primary or sole means of deciding who is laid off first, in spite of state law to the contrary. Regarding transfers, only three districts have bridging contracts that give administrators discretion to fill vacancies; most keep seniority as a consideration, and none explicitly require the use of OTES scores in transfer decisions. For tenure decisions, only three districts include OTES in their procedures for removing poorly performing teachers. Finally, only three districts have bridging provisions for compensation, meaning they consider teachers’ OTES scores when deciding how much to pay them. While this doesn’t seem promising for OTES implementation, these fifteen districts are the first to renegotiate their contracts after the adoption of the new system. Many more districts have yet to negotiate their new agreements. The findings do indicate that these districts are clearly hesitant to codify the use of OTES when making personnel decisions. By excluding OTES from their contracts, they might be undermining something they don't like (perhaps with the prodding of the teacher union), or—less nefariously—avoiding something they don't yet trust.
W. Kyle Ingle, P. Christian Willis, and James Fritz, “Collective Bargaining Agreement Provisions in the Wake of Ohio Teacher Evaluation System Legislation,” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, San Antonio, TX, March 2014.