Ohio schools wading cautiously into teacher-evaluation waters

The State Board of Education, prompted by a requirement in House Bill 153 in 2011, developed a new framework for teacher evaluations, to be implemented by all districts starting with the 2013-14 school year. The Marietta Times reported that some school districts in the Buckeye State will be piloting new systems this upcoming school year.

Frontier Local, Marietta City, and Wolf Creek districts will all be testing their new evaluations systems this year, and school officials are complaining about a number of implementation challenges. HB 153 requires both principal and teacher evaluations. For the latter, at least 50 percent of a teacher’s rating must be dependent on student academic growth. The process also includes at least two classroom observations and a teacher/evaluator conference before and after each. Superintendents have raised concerns about the estimated the time commitment these rigorous evaluations are likely to require.

Other Ohio districts can learn from these early adopters and come up with better and more efficient ways to do rigorous evaluations in 2013-14. For districts struggling with tight budgets, it will take strategic planning to conduct these evaluations well. However, contract language can have a significant impact on how time consuming evaluations become – because-- all teachers may not have to be evaluated every year and the bill does not specify who must conduct evaluations. In Wolf Creek, the superintendent is brainstorming ways to lessen the burden on principals and considering outside support. However, even this has its drawbacks. Wolf Creek stressed the importance of finding someone who understands the district’s philosophy and has done more than simply “meet the state requirements for an evaluator.” Since every district is a little different (and with Ohio having more than 600 districts and roughly 350 charter schools), it is not hard to understand why being familiar with their particular nuances is an advantage.

Nuances or none, all Ohio schools will soon move towards teacher evaluations. Where the pilot may work well in some districts, it may not be a good fit in others. Wolf Creek, for example, claims to not have the problem the new system primarily aims to fix (poor teachers staying in the classroom). Some may find the time devoted to evaluations superfluous. Some may run into staffing complications. Others may dread additional costs associated with measuring the 50 percent student growth component in non-tested subjects. In any case, tough decisions must be made and stakeholders will definitely be keeping a close watch on how these pilot districts fare in the upcoming school year.

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