Uniform, more rigorous teacher evaluations begin

By Denise Dick



Beginning this school year, teachers throughout the state will be evaluated and rated as one of four categories: accomplished, skilled, developing or ineffective.

The new system initially was met with trepidation.

“Part of it is the newness of it,” said Barbara Robey, director of teaching and learning at the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, adding that teachers are becoming more comfortable with the system.

The difference between the new evaluation and the old is consistency, said James Herrholtz, assistant superintendent at MCESC.

Though teachers have always been subject to performance evaluation, there was no standard.

Each district devised its own system. That often allowed subjectivity and didn’t provide teachers with information about how to improve, Herrholtz said.

Robey said the new system mandated by the Ohio Department of Education uses benchmarks for evaluation that aim to eliminate subjectivity. Evaluators, who must be credentialed by the state, must provide evidence backing up their scores.

Teachers and administrators both understand the importance of the evaluations, Robey said.

“I’ve seen teachers and administrators work harder than I’ve seen in my whole career,” she said.

Teachers are judged 50 percent on performance and 50 percent on student growth.

The system is designed to help teachers improve.

“It’s not a gotcha,” Herrholtz said.

If a teacher’s evaluation determines they’re weak in an area, they’re provided with a plan to help them strengthen those skills.

Robey and Herrholtz believe most teachers in the Mahoning Valley will fall into the middle two categories: “skilled” and “developing.”

“There will be very few accomplished teachers,” Robey said.

That isn’t bad, she said.

She expects many teachers to be rated “accomplished” in different categories.

“Accomplished” means the teacher “is a leader and model in the classroom, school and district, exceeding expectations for performance,” according to the ODE.

“Skilled” and “developing” teachers are good teachers, Robey said.

A skilled teacher “consistently meets expectations for performance and fully demonstrates most or all competencies,” ODE’s definition says. A developing teacher demonstrates the “minimum competency in many of the teaching standards, but may struggle with others,” according to ODE.

A developing rating could mean that a teacher is within his or her first years in the profession or a more seasoned educator whose grade level or subject area has been changed.

The only rating that is cause for concern is “ineffective” and Herrholtz and Robey expect few area teachers to fall into that category. An “ineffective” rating indicates the teacher “consistently fails to demonstrate minimum competency in one or more teaching standards,” according to ODE. “There is little or no improvement over time. The teacher requires immediate assistance and needs to be placed on an improvement plan.”

An “ineffective” rating in two of three previous years means a school district can nonrenew a teacher.

The performance evaluations are made based on classroom walkthroughs and two 30-minute observations during the school year. Before the final performance rating is submitted, teachers are provided feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.

Performance evaluations cover a teacher’s instruction, prior content knowledge, knowledge of students, classroom environment and other areas.

The other 50 percent of the overall rating is determined by the student academic- growth measure, or how much their students learn during the school year. This can be done using the value-added data, which is based on a year’s growth.

For grade levels or subject areas where value added isn’t available, such as for art, music or gym, a district may use a locally determined measure.

That’s called a student learning objective. It’s a measurable, long-term academic growth target that a teacher sets at the beginning of the year for students or subgroups of students.

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