Editor’s note: It’s been almost ten years since the creation of the. This post looks at its genesis, troubled implementation, and recent efforts to replace it with something better.
Back in the late 2000s,dozens of other states in applying in the second round of , a federal grant program that awarded funding based on selection criteria that, among other things, required states to explain how they would improve teacher effectiveness.
Ohio succeeded in securing. As part of a massive education reform push that was buoyed by these funds, the state created the (OTES). It aimed to accomplish two goals: to identify low-performers for accountability purposes, and to help teachers improve their practice.
It’s been nearly a decade, but it’s plenty clear that OTES has failed to deliver on both fronts. The reasons are myriad. The system has been in almost constant flux. Lawmakers started test scores from being used to calculate teacher ratings, and thus the full OTES framework wasn’t used as intended for three straight school years.after just one year of implementation. The performance evaluation for professional growth plans lacked the detail and clarity needed to be helpful. Many principals complained about the administrative burden. Teachers’ experience with the system varied widely depending on the grade and subject they taught. The and the of (SLOs) made the system seem biased. And prohibited
Given all these issues, it should come as no surprise that lawmakers and advocates began working to make serious changes to OTES the moment that , given that it removed federal requirements related to teacher evaluations. In the spring of 2017, the (ESB) proposed a series of six recommendations for overhauling the system. (You can find in-depth analyses of these recommendations and .) These recommendations were then included in , the same education deregulation bill that made .
When SB 216 went into effect in the fall of 2018, it tasked the State Board of Education with adopting the recommendations put forth by the ESB no later than May 1, 2020. This gap in time provided the state with an opportunity to pilot the new OTES framework in aduring the 2019–20 school year. The Ohio Department of Education plans to gather feedback from pilot participants, and to refine and revise the framework prior to full statewide implementation in 2020–21.
We’re almost halfway through the 2019–20 school year, which means the OTES pilot—referred to as “” on the department’s website—is halfway done. We won’t know for sure how implementation of the new framework is going until the department releases its findings and revisions prior to the 2020–21 school year. But OTES 2.0 made some pretty big changes to the way student achievement and growth are measured, and some of those changes are now in place and worth examining.
Prior to the passage of SB 216, Ohio districts could choose between implementing theteacher evaluation framework or an . Both frameworks assigned a summative rating based on weighted measures. One of these measures was student academic growth, which was calculated using one of three data sources: data based on state tests, which were used for math and reading teachers in grades four through eight; used for grade levels and subjects for which value added cannot be used; or reserved for subjects that are not measured by traditional assessments, such as art or music. Local measures included shared attribution and SLOs.
The ESB recommendations changed all of this. The two frameworks and their weighting percentages will cease to exist. Instead, student growth measures will be embedded into a revised observational rubric. Teachers will earn a summative rating based solely on two formal observations. The new system requires at least two measures of high-quality student data to be used to provide evidence of student growth and achievement on specific indicators of the rubric.
A quick look at the department’sindicates that the new rubric hasn’t been published yet. One would hope that’s because the department is revising it based on feedback from pilot participants. Once the rubric is released, it will be important to closely evaluate its rigor and compare it to .
The types of high-quality data that are permissible have, however, been. If value-added data are available, then it must be one of the two sources used in the evaluation. There are two additional options: approved vendor assessments and district-determined instruments. are provided by national testing vendors and permitted for use by Ohio schools and districts. As of publication, the most recently updated list is and includes assessments from NWEA, ACT, and College Board. District-determined instruments are identified by district and school leadership rather than the state. Shared attribution and SLOs are no longer permitted, but pretty much anything else can be used if it meets the following criteria:
- Aligns to learning standards
- Measures what is intended to be measured
- Does not offend or is not driven by bias
- Is attributable to the specific teacher for course(s) and grade level(s) taught
- Demonstrates evidence of student learning (achievement and growth)
- Follows protocols for administration and scoring
- Provides trustworthy results
All of these criteria are appropriate. But they’re also extremely vague. How can a district prove that an instrument is inoffensive? What, exactly, qualifies as a “trustworthy” result? And given how many curricular materials, how can districts be sure that their determined instruments are actually aligned to state standards?
It’s also worth noting that the department requires a district’s chosen instrument to have been “rigorously reviewed by experts in the field of education, as locally determined.” This language isn’t super clear, but it seems to indicate that local districts will have the freedom to determine which experts they heed. Given how much is on the plate of district officials—and all the previous complaints about OTES being an “administrative burden”—weeding through expert opinions seems like a lot to ask.
The upshot is that Ohio districts and schools are about to have a whole lot more control over how their teachers are evaluated. And it’s not just in the realm of student growth measures either. ODE has anposted on its website that lists all the local decision points for districts.
The big question is whether all this local control will result in stronger accountability and better professional development for teachers. Remember, there’s a reason Race to the Top incentivized adopting rigorous, state-driven teacher evaluation systems: the local systems that were in place previously just weren’t cutting it. Despite poor student outcomes and large achievement gaps, the vast majority of teachers were rated as effective.
Of course, that’s not to say that state models are unquestionably better. OTES had a ton of issues, and the student growth measures in particular were unfair to a large swath of teachers. But still, moving in the direction of considerable local control, regardless of whether it’s the wise thing to do, is risking going back to the days when teacher evaluations were either non-existent or a joke., but it is the most under the control of schools. Here’s hoping that districts take their new evaluation responsibilities very, very seriously.