The reason we do this

The reason we do this
A walk with the Coys

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teacher Evaluations: What do they look like now, What could they look like with HB176?

Teacher evaluations are often brought up as fodder for an assortment of folks who seem to have a great deal of opinion on the matter.  It is fascinating to me, as an 8th-grade science teacher, that the performance evaluation tool that assesses my effectiveness as an educator is such a hot topic. Regardless, evaluations are something teachers are passionate about, and rightfully so.  To shed light on this, let's walk through the process...

How do teacher evaluations currently get completed?  An administrator from within our district is assigned to a number of teachers.  Depending on the previous year's evaluation, there is a set number of "walk through" style observations and then either one or two formal evaluations.  In the formal evaluation, there is a pre-conference, a full class time observation, and a post-conference.  Currently, the observation uses the OTES rubric to determine the ranking of the teacher.  Evidence must be provided for each section or category.  I like this process.  I like seeing my administrators, and so do the students.  I like for my administrators to know what I'm doing in my classroom and to have confidence in who I am as a teacher.  The "OTES" rubric is similar to Praxis rubric of the past, just a bit more redundant.  I don't mind rubrics.  I enjoy "evaluations". I appreciate praise and suggestions for improvement.  If these steps were all that evaluations entailed (as it was in the past) then I would have little more to say about them, however, currently, this process only makes up 50% of Ohio teacher's evaluation.

The other 50% is derived from student performance.  The students take a variety of state tests (which is a subject for another post), and how they perform on those tests determines the effectiveness of the teachers.  I am NOT ok with this.  When it comes to the rigor of my classroom and the amount of information and understanding they gain,  my administrators, students and student's parents can attest to the excellent job I do.  I do not say this to be boastful,  but to shed light on the fact that I, like my teaching peers, are working day in and day out to help the young people of Ohio reach a deeper understanding of the world around them.  We teach them content, and how to improve the content of the character.  In my 14 years of teaching, I can attest to the fact that I have students who have learned all that I have sought to teach them, however, this is not indicated by test scores.

Why not?  Why is this such a big deal?  If the students learned what they were supposed to, then why are the tests such a frustration?  The standardized tests, in general, are a frustration philosophically, but even putting that aside, my students have very little buy-in for these tests.  Students will not find out how they performed on the test until well after school is out.  Even then, the academic repercussions are non-existent. One of my students said it best: "What's the point?"

Some students do work very hard, up to the last minute, because that is their nature.  Some students stress out at the idea that their performance is going to affect me (even though that is NOT an emphasis I make in my classroom, they understand the game).   Some students click through the test, just to be done. For these students, no amount of bribing with prizes for working longer gets this grouping of students to try harder (I also take issue with rewarding expected behavior... another post for another day).

For those that legitimately try,  I have found from my digital test in class that they consistently perform at a lower achievement level on computerized tests then paper/pencil tests.  The graphics can be difficult to manipulate and understand, and the students have stated they like to have a pencil in their hands to write out their answers (Not just on the scratch paper provided).  There is also the timing factor on top of all of this.  This year, the 8th-grade science test was administered the Monday (ironically a government holiday) after Easter.  With the multitude of holiday associated factors,  I feel confident in saying that the results will be diminished from their initial potential.  This test is to be 50% of my overall "ranking" as a teacher?

In a nutshell, these tests are not a true reflection of what my students know.  As their teacher, I should be the one confirming or denying their mastery of content and be providing my assessment through the means my local school board has deemed appropriate ( Letter grades).  In the same way, my effectiveness as an educator should be assessed by my administrator through a means agreed upon by our local board of education and teacher leaders, not the state. I welcome my administrators and school board members into my classroom.  I welcome evaluations by my administrators, using a rubric that the teachers and school boards design together.

 It's time for us to voice our faith in our local school board members, our teachers, and our administrators.  It's time to stop demoralizing those who invest so much into the future of our society.  We instead should be empowering them with a vote of confidence.  If you agree with this notion, this is the time to be proactive.  Representative Andy Thompson has penned a bill that supports local school boards and teachers to make these decisions.  It allows for school choice on curriculum, increases student data protection and completely removes state assessments from teacher evaluations.  I encourage you to read over the analysis of the bill for yourself.  If you like what you read, please go one step further and take action.  Call or write your legislator and ask them to support it.  This is not a partisan issue, this is an opportunity for us to all work together for our schools.

Thank you for your time and lets #passHB176


Link for the Analysis of the bill:

How to identify and contact your state representative:

Link to the full HB 176


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