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GOP State Sen. Randy Gardner Proposes Tweaks to New Ohio Teacher Evaluation System

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A new system is being used to determine the value of Ohio’s teachers, and education officials are already asking lawmakers to make some tweaks to the process. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, supporters believe more teachers would benefit under the proposed changes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Schools around the state are implementing the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, also known as OTES. The process grades teachers through administrator observations and student growth.

Since OTES is new, policymakers and education officials are keeping a close eye on its effectiveness to see if there’s anything to improve upon.

Republican State Sen. Randy Gardner of Bowling Green says that’s where Senate Bill 229 comes in. He says his legislation makes some changes to OTES that reward good teachers and give school districts more local control.

A teacher can receive one of four grades, or designations, through OTES. The rating "accomplished" is the highest followed by "skilled," "developing" and "ineffective."

As of now, if a teacher is designated as Accomplished this year, then he or she would be observed every other year. The rest of the designations require an observation every year.

Under Gardner’s proposal, an accomplished teacher would be observed every three years and a skilled teacher would be observed every other year. This loosens the reins a little on teachers who prove their value.

“We believe this additional flexibility still says evaluations are important in Ohio," Gardner said. "But it allows additional flexibility and saves some money on the administrative side that can be put directly back into the classroom to help children learn.”

The change does not apply to educators in their first four years of teaching and the senator adds that test scores will still keep everyone in check.

“This doesn’t mean that this is the only time that teachers will be evaluated during those times, because we have standardized testing, we have new testing formats, that that data will be available every year," Gardner said. "But this would be the formal, more time-intensive, principal administrative evaluation.”

The bill also makes changes to the student growth factor. This is measured by how much progress a student makes from one year to the other. As of now, student growth accounts for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Educators think that’s too high, according to Gardner, who wants that number to drop to 35 percent. This change means school districts can choose what to do with the remaining 15 percent, which could go back into student growth if board members deem that necessary.

“It’s not a dramatic change," Gardner said. "But it’s a meaningful change that school districts believe provides a better option for them to institute other local measures.”

The Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, supports the bill and says the changes represent progress to the system.

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