Yesterday Bellwether Education Partners released a scorecard that evaluated teacher effectiveness legislation in five different states. Given that Ohio's just-enacted biennial budget (which we did a post-op of here) forced some changes to teacher evaluation policy, we were disappointed to see Bellwether skip the Buckeye State.
The report rated Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee against specific metrics measuring the quality of the actual legislation passed (not the fidelity of implementation or progress made toward goals). Indiana received the highest rating (11.25 out of 13). Not that we needed validation, but this should reaffirm to Ohio lawmakers that our spring visit from Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett was a worthwhile one, and that the Hoosier State has some ideas worth borrowing. Illinois, which received loud praise for its unanimous/bipartisan passage of SB 7 earlier this year, rated lowest (6.5 out of 13). This isn't wholly unsurprising; we raised issue with Illinois' teacher reforms back in April:
A?quick?look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation:?The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off.?There's no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement.?There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan.?Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn't respond within 45 days.?
The variables used to judge the rigor of teacher effectiveness laws are good ones, and worth comparing Ohio against. The following are Bellwether's questions and an attempt to see how Ohio's recently-passed HB 153 measures up.
- ?Are teachers evaluated annually?? Yes (mostly). HB 153 rightly requires evaluations to be annual, and for teachers under limited contracts (non-tenured) there will be two evaluations a school year. For teachers rated ?accomplished? (the top tier of effectiveness), however, evaluations will be biennial if the district's board elects to pursue it.
- ?Are teacher evaluations based on student achievement?? Yes. The State Board of Education has to come up with a model evaluation framework by the end of 2011, and then districts and charter schools will have to adopt their own versions by 2013. All frameworks require that student academic growth be 50 percent of the evaluation.
- ?Are there multiple, clearly defined levels of teacher effectiveness?? Yes ? four: accomplished, proficient, developing, and ineffective.
- ?Are parents and the public provided clear information about teacher effectiveness?? No, though theoretically the State Board could write this into the model framework and strongly suggest or incentivize districts to make such data readily available.
- ?Can ineffective teachers be dismissed?? No. Unfortunately, earlier versions of the law would have allowed districts to dismiss teachers for chronic ineffectiveness. Ohio did undo seniority-based layoffs (embedded in law since 1941) but seniority can still count in instances where teachers with comparable ratings are in line for layoffs.
- ?Is teacher tenure awarded based on effectiveness?? No.
- ?Can ineffective teachers lose tenure?? No, at least for now. Districts can opt to craft evaluation systems and policies that tie dismissal, tenure, pay, etc. to evaluation ratings. But the law only expressly requires that districts provide support/professional development to poorly performing teachers, and? develop ?procedures? for using evaluation ratings for retention, promotion, and removal. (We'll suspend judgment in either direction until we see what districts come up with.)
- ?Is teacher effectiveness, rather than seniority, the primary consideration in reductions in force and excessing decisions?? Yes ? well, sort of. The requirement to lay off teachers based on seniority was removed from state law, but immediately following HB 153's passage a more fine-toothed reading of the bill revealed that preference will still be given to teachers on continuing contracts (tenure). This means that only among non-tenured teachers will effectiveness matter. And since tenure is not tied to effectiveness (yet, or in any systematic, statewide manner) this gives preferences to teachers with more years in the system. Reformers in Cleveland ? Mayor Jackson included ? have picked up on this nuance and are fighting for clearer, fairer language here.?
- ?Is teacher effectiveness the primary consideration in excessing decisions, and may districts dismiss excessed teachers who do not find new positions through mutual consent?? Earlier versions of the law would have allowed districts to excess teachers who couldn't find positions through mutual consent. Teachers rated in the bottom two tiers of effectiveness would not have been forced on any school/principal that didn't want them. Unfortunately, this language was removed. There's nothing in place to prevent the infamous ?dance of the lemons.?
- ?Does the law protect students from being consecutively assigned to ineffective teachers?? No.
- ?Do principals have the authority to decide who teaches in their schools?? No.
- ?Are effective teachers rewarded with increased compensation?? Yes ? well, sort of. Districts participating in Race to the Top (and charter schools) must come up with a performance-pay scale as soon as possible. The rest of the state's districts can design performance-pay scales that replace traditional salary schedules, or conform to existing ones (I'd place my bets that most will stick with the latter).
- ?Does the law support school leaders' autonomy to make human capital decisions that meet their schools' needs?? No.
*Caveat on Senate Bill 5: Ohio's ratings according to Bellwether's list of questions would/could change depending on the outcome of Senate Bill 5, a controversial measure to reform public sector collective bargaining in Ohio signed by Governor Kasich this spring and up for referendum this fall. (Specifically ? it would change the answers to #5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13; SB 5 would effectively abolish tenure ? so theoretically effectiveness would replace seniority in key personnel decisions ? and it would also weaken collective bargaining and possibly give principals more freedom over staff decisions. It would also require merit pay across the board.)?
Ok - we see why Bellwether didn't include Ohio. Overall, it doesn't fare well? ? at least not compared to other states or even to earlier iterations of HB 153. As we've said before, details are up in the air (districts have a lot of autonomy to determine their own evaluations) and rigorous and thoughtful implementation of teacher effectiveness policies will make a world of difference in whether any of these changes make a dent in student achievement over the long haul.
- Jamie Davies O'Leary