Senate Bill 229 Improves Ohio's Teacher Evaluation System
Editorial from The Cleveland Plain Dealer
December 16, 2013
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Ohio’s intensive teacher evaluation system just started this school year, so at first it seemed that Senate Bill 229, which offers a different way of evaluating teachers, would be a recipe for confusion. The bill recently rolled through the Senate and it's now awaiting action in the Ohio House.

But it’s clear the bill gives school districts more options on how to do teacher evaluations. That ought to make it easier for districts to comply. The House should pass this bill.

It is no retreat to the bad old days when many school districts did cursory evaluations that provided little information about teachers’ strengths and weaknesses -- thus offering no useful guidance onhow to improve their performance. Those specifics should be a key part of any evaluation system.

Instead, sponsor Sen. Randy Gardner, a Republican from Bowling Green and a former teacher, has made flexibility his watchword, he said in a recent phone interview.

Gardner said he listened to many educators before crafting his bill. 

Teachers had complained that having 50 percent of their assessment based on student test scores -- as required in current state legislation -- was far too high a percentage since other factors, such as low socioeconomic backgrounds and poor attendance, have been shown to impact test scores.

That’s no excuse not to find new ways to reach and toteach those youngsters, but it does suggest that 50 percent might be too high.

So, the bill allows districts to use academic measures for at least 35 percent of teacher evaluations and it allows up to 15 percent of the rest of teachers’ grades to rely on student surveys and other assessments, which is the standard used by the Cleveland school district, according to Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon.

The other half of the current equation for teacher assessments is based on classroom observations, teacher-principal conferences and written reports. However, school administrators complained that conducting annual intensive reviews is too time-intensive.

The Senate bill changes that: Teachers who have been ranked accomplished may be evaluated every three years and those who are ranked skilled – meeting expectations – every other year.

The revisions make sense and don’t water down the evaluations. It’s more important to do them right than to treat the system like a synchronized swimming contest.

Gardner’s bill should earn an easy A from the House.

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