Mr. Gunlock made the following statement to the State Board of Education last month prior to the adoption of the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation Framework. Soon, I will be providing the State Board with an overview of what I learned from teachers during my travels this summer. I thought the teachers of Ohio might find Mr. Gunlock’s message of interest:
Nearly every day we are literally bombarded with stories in the media about our education system. Every reporter and editor has an opinion as to how policy-makers must act to make improvements. Frequently, attention, even blame, is targeted at teachers.
I recently came across the following excerpt from a New York Times editorial: "There are at least 'several hundred' incompetents now in the school system. Other observers think there are several thousands, while still others insist that 'several' would be nearer the mark. Whether these incompetents were unfit to teach at any time, or have been rendered unfit by the passing years, is a matter of opinion. The question is: Why are they allowed to remain?"
What interested me most about this particular editorial is that it appeared in the New York Times in 1936.
In the 75 years since this editorial was written, we have unfortunately made little progress towards identifying and acting to eliminate poor instruction in our nation’s classrooms. Our unwillingness or inability to assess instructional performance accurately and intervene in meaningful ways where and when necessary, is wrong on many levels. This paralysis not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top-performers or supporting professional growth among hard working teachers.
Today when educators are evaluated using a process featuring a binary rating system, approximately 99 percent of teachers receive a satisfactory rating while1 percent or less receive an unsatisfactory rating. Even when a broader range of ratings are utilized, approximately 94 percent of teachers receive one of the top two ratings and less than one percent are rated unsatisfactory. Does anyone really believe that 99 percent of the members of any profession are superior performers? When all teachers are rated good or great, those who are truly exceptional cannot be formally identified. The failure to assess variations in instructional effectiveness impedes districts’ ability to improve as specific development needs go undiagnosed. As a consequence, instead of being treated as professionals and participating in targeted, personalized professional development, teachers are routinely herded into a chosen venue and required to experience a specific speaker or program whether they can benefit from it or not.
So how does Ohio propose to make changes for the better? By the end of the year the State Board of Education will approve a framework to assist schools and districts to improve teacher evaluation. The framework will assist and guide local school boards in creating and refining their local teacher evaluation system. This framework does not create a one-size-fits-all, state-imposed evaluation system. Each district will customize the process at the local level. This local control ensures that the ultimate responsibility to ensure that every child is taught by a highly effective teacher remains with local communities and boards of education.
I would like to be very clear about something: The goal of the state framework and locally developed evaluation systems is not to beat up on teachers. The goal is to make quality instruction available to every child in every classroom across the state. The goal of the evaluation framework is to support every teacher in continually improving their performance whether they have been teaching for two years or twenty. If used correctly, locally developed evaluation systems based on this framework should help ensure all of our teachers are getting better every year.
Recently, President Obama spoke in bold terms about improving teacher effectiveness in just this way, saying, "If a teacher is given a chance or two chances, or three chances but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children's teachers and the schools where they teach.” I could not agree more.
We simply cannot allow any child to lose a year of learning. Every year of a child’s education must count. Our primary concern cannot be sparing adults and institutions from consequences for their actions or inactions. I believe we are all morally obligated to do everything in our power to make sure that we have the best teacher possible in every classroom. Anything less is unacceptable.
Useful Feedback for Teachers
The Dispatch reported recently that several thousand teachers received reports of how successful their students had been on state tests as part of President Obama’s Race to the Top improvement drive. These reports are aimed at helping teachers see the effect that they have on the growth of their students and where improvements in practice need to be made.
These reports are limited in scope, and look only at one factor – value added data, though they speak to our ultimate goal of better student performance. These reports point out only where we have been successful, and where we aren’t getting the results that we need.
The ultimate measure of our success as teachers is the success of our students. But, when it comes to teacher evaluation my conversations with teachers and the emails I’ve read have made it clear that test scores aren’t enough to help them grow or improve. We need to be provided with information and feedback that helps us to grow and develop in our practice so that we can be successful educators and our students can be successful learners. To guide improvements in instruction, additional data is needed. Our teacher evaluation system in Ohio needs to provide that.
I would love to hear from teachers who received one of these reports. What did you think of the data? Was it helpful? Will it have an impact on your teaching moving forward? As we continue to work on a teacher evaluation model for Ohio, what other feedback would you like to receive that might be useful in guiding your practice?
Education Nation 2011
The state of education in America is a focus this week at Education Nation 2011. This summit brings together education stakeholders from across the country to discuss the “challenges and potential solutions spanning today's education landscape.”
I have found their discussions really informative, and I encourage you to check out the videos that they are posting following each live event.
My favorite part of this summit is the input that teachers are providing! Teachers are sharing their thoughts on the Teacher Wall site as well as making comments and asking questions via Facebook and Twitter.
I encourage you to check out what’s going on and share your ideas or ask one of their experts your questions about education across the country.
And, as always, I encourage you to share your thoughts with us, as we move forward in developing an evaluation and compensation model for Ohio.
Have I Heard from You?
I recently heard from a teacher who is employed within a Juvenile Detention Center. She (accurately) pointed out that I hadn’t heard from or met with teachers who work in the corrections system. I have since reached out to the Department of Youth Services and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. I am working on gathering input from this important population of educators.
I thank this teacher for reaching out to me and pointing out my omission. Teachers across Ohio work with diverse and varied populations. I appreciate those that have taken the time to share their realities with us.
Our goal is to design an evaluation model that is flexible enough for all educators. I welcome feedback from teachers in unique situations and encourage you to share your situations and your ideas with us.
Congratulations to Ohio’s Blue Ribbon Schools!
It’s always nice to be able to celebrate good news! This year, Ohio is home to eighteen Blue Ribbon Schools which are either high achieving or which have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students. Congratulations to the students, staff, and administrators at:
All Saints School – Cincinnati
Cardington-Lincoln Elementary School – Cardington
Citizens Academy – Cleveland
Kensington Intermediate School – Rocky River
Kings Mills Elementary School – Kings Mills
Lake Elementary School – Hartville
Maplewood Elementary School – North Bloomfield
Putman Elementary School – Blanchester
Saint Angela Merici School – Fairview Park
Saint Barnabas Catholic School – Northfield
St. Columban School – Loveland
St. Francis Xavier School – Medina
St. Joan of Arc School – Chagrin Falls
South Range High School – Canfield
Springboro High School – Springboro
Timmons Elementary School – Chagrin Falls
Union Elementary School – Upper Sandusky
West Boulevard Elementary School - Youngstown
The Details: What We’re Hearing
I wanted to give our readers a peek at some of the feedback about evaluation and compensation that we have gathered from teachers across Ohio. In looking back through my notes and the more than 1,300 emails that we have received, I have identified five main areas of concern regarding the development of evaluation and compensation models. Please take some time to look through this sampling of questions, comments, and concerns. I’d love to know your thoughts on what we are hearing. As you will see, there is a diverse representation of ideas. We must take into consideration these various concerns and suggestions as we move forward in creating a fair and flexible teacher evaluation system.
Click here to read the memo and share your thoughts.
What’s Wrong with Educator Evaluation
Perhaps the most enlightening thing I’ve learned working as Ohio’s Teacher Liaison is how differently districts across Ohio approach evaluation. As a classroom teacher, I felt the evaluation system my district used was rigorous. It led to my growth as a professional, and as a result the growth of my students.
I have learned about many different evaluation systems as I meet with Ohio’s teachers. There is so much variety from district to district. Recently, the Columbus Dispatch took a must-see look at the evaluation system in Columbus Public Schools. Under this system 2,224 out of 2,296 teachers were found to be perfect. I have known some amazing educators, but I don’t think that I could find one that would tell you they are perfect. We all have room for growth.
This really points out why we need a new model for evaluation. Columbus Public Schools is not alone in their use of an evaluation tool that doesn’t effectively show teachers their strengths or the areas where they need to grow.
High quality teachers matter more to student success than any other single factor. Our hope is that we can create a model that is focused on teachers and students. We should all hope to be the best we can be for the future of our state.
UPDATE: The Dispatch Editorial Board took a second look at this issue and outlined some of the changes coming to educator evaluation. It’s a must read for teachers in Ohio.
Columbus Dispatch: Throwing the Curve
What I’m Hearing: Parent and Student Feedback
Teachers often point out the importance of having as much support from parents as possible. In a meeting recently, teachers reiterated the value that they place on student- teacher and parent- teacher relationships, saying that they felt like they needed to take the time to work with parents so that they could get the best results for their students.
So, if these relationships are so important, should they be a factor in evaluations? This is a hot topic in my communication with teachers.
What are your thoughts? Are parent or student surveys a good way to gauge your professional practice? What if those surveys were just one of many factors used to evaluate your work? How are you using parent or student feedback in your current system? Let me know your thoughts on using parent and student feedback as part of a teacher evaluation system.
Made the Paper, Again!
We made the paper in Bucyrus following our meeting in Mansfield. While we appreciate the mention, I feel like I should clarify that we weren’t “talking up merit pay” as the article suggests. This is only a small part of this conversation, as performance compensation is only required for a limited group of Race to the Top districts under current law.
More importantly, we are in listening mode - collecting input from teachers about what they feel should be included in an evaluation system that will accurately reflect their practice.
There is still a lot to be determined about how new evaluation models will look, who will be doing the evaluating, and what factors will play into a teacher’s evaluation.
We would love your feedback! What do you think should be included in a new evaluation model? Should all teachers in a building or district be evaluated in the same way? I would love to know your thoughts on the factors you think should be included in a new teacher evaluation system in Ohio.
What I’m Hearing: Teacher Leadership
We were out and about again last week, meeting with teachers and hearing their ideas on evaluation and compensation. I was so impressed by the groups that we met with! For example, we met one teacher who spent many of her years teaching in North Carolina and was ready for change in our state. She thought that teachers who are getting the best results should be used as leaders in their buildings and compensated for their responsibility. Other teachers in the group echoed this desire to have avenues and opportunities for an individual teacher to be innovative and take leadership roles in their buildings and districts.
High quality teachers are the most important factor in student success. Our goal in moving to a new evaluation plan is to differentiate between accomplished and ineffective teachers and to provide useful professional feedback to help all teachers grow.
I think these teachers share our vision! What do you think – are highly effective teachers being given the opportunity to innovate and lead in your district? Please share your experiences and your ideas for the best ways to utilize our best teachers!
What I’m Hearing: Reflections on Professional Practice
I continue to get great feedback from teachers! A teacher that responded to my “What I’m hearing: Multiple Measures” post said that this “list seems to include mostly observations of what the teacher "does." I'm not sure that just going through all the right motions is really enough to distinguish the most accomplished teachers from all others. I think there also needs to be some indication of how the teacher is thinking about their teaching, such as pre- and post-observation writings and other reflections.”
What do you think? What other aspects should be considered? Do you have experience with any of these components that you would like to share?
I would love to hear from you! Please share your ideas on what needs to be included in a fair and comprehensive evaluation system.
What I’m Hearing: Multiple Measures
Recently, a teacher wrote in that “a true teacher review would be made up of many factors, much like the reviews of the private sector. These would include both test scores (state and district) AND time in service, but also include things like continuing ed, attendance, administrator observation, parental observation and feedback, student observation and feedback, peer observation and feedback, failure rates and class grades, contributions to and leadership in the school environment, and examples of exemplary lessons (which should be posted in a central database for all Ohio teachers to access) among other factors to be determined by teachers, administrators, board members, and union representatives as important for effective teaching.”
We love hearing from teachers about the measures they feel most accurately represent their practice. What do you think of this educator’s vision? What other measures would you add to the list? Are there any here that you take issue with?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the measures that demonstrate your practice.
What I’m Hearing: Testing
A teacher wrote in this week and said, “I do not believe that teacher’s evaluations/pay can be based solely on performance which would be evaluated by student test scores.”
WE AGREE! There is no intention of creating a system of evaluation or compensation based on a single measure of a teacher’s practice. Legislation dictates that 50% of evaluation must be based on measures of student achievement. But, what we are doing right now is listening to teachers; getting their input on what that other 50% should look like. We will be providing models for districts to use in creating their own local evaluation systems. Test scores are not to be the only measure. Keep writing in and sharing your ideas and concerns!
Recently, Michigan State Representative Tim Melton (D) made a must-see plea to those on both sides of the aisle to support teacher evaluation reform in his state. Melton wore a purple tie the day that he made the speech, to reinforce that this issue is not about political affiliation – whether you are a red or a blue – but rather about all people and all children.
Teachers, concerned about reform, ask me from time to time why they should stay in Ohio. Education reform, teacher evaluation, and performance compensation are issues that are heating up across the country and across party lines.
Be part of the change by sharing your thoughts!
What I’m Hearing: Peer Evaluations
Peer Evaluations are turning out to be a controversial topic that I’m hearing a lot about in my meetings with teachers.
Some teachers LOVE the idea of being evaluated by their peers. Those teachers argue that, often, peers know more about your day-to-day practice than administrators. Also, peers are viewed as less concerned about the “bottom line” than administrators and as a result are viewed to be less biased.
However, I’m also hearing from teachers who don’t want to be evaluated by their peers because their peers are viewed as more critical than administrators. Teachers are also concerned that peer evaluation could cause friction between co-workers.
I’d love to hear your ideas on peer evaluation. Weigh in to voice your opinion on this issue.
NO WONDER people are scared!
As I travel around Ohio and read through emails, I am seeing and hearing some very surprising things! Today I learned some teachers are being led to believe that 50% of their salary will be a “bonus” based on student achievement. So, according to this poorly informed notion, a teacher making $50,000 per year would make $25,000 base and get the other $25,000 when and if their students are successful on achievement tests.
Here are the facts. Race to the Top and House Bill 153 both articulate that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on measures of student growth.
Note, that the legislation above is discussing evaluation – not compensation. Additionally, “measures” is an important word that a lot of people are not hearing. The specifics of what these measures will be are still being worked out. The expectation of legislation and Race to the Top is that valid, reliable measures of student growth are used to determine student achievement.
On the subject of compensation, this will be negotiated locally – even if you are in one of the Race to the Top districts who are mandated under House Bill 153 to institute performance compensation. The only expectation is that teacher evaluation will inform compensation, but local negotiations will determine the specifics of pay. Local control is so important to teachers, because no two districts are exactly alike. What will work in my district might not work in yours. It’s also important to reiterate, as I mentioned in a previous post, that performance compensation is not a bonus program. If you are in a performance compensation district, your performance will determine your salary – not a pre-set salary schedule.
I hope that this helps to clear up one of the inaccuracies that you might be hearing. Please, contact us to share your ideas, and let us know if you have questions about what you are hearing. I will do my best to clarify!
Let He Who Has Never Been in the Wrong Place Cast the First Stone…
This afternoon, the Columbus Dispatch reported on a meeting to be attended by a member of Governor Kasich’s staff, Barbara Mattei-Smith. As was stated in the article, there was a misunderstanding about the room location for the meeting. I had a chance to talk with Barb and she was very sorry about the mix-up. As soon as she figured out what had happened, she reached out with an apology and an offer to reschedule. Barb remains dedicated to hearing from educators as she works on the development of new school funding models.
Governor Kasich values teacher input. Like Barb, I am in the process of meeting with teachers across Ohio. Teachers are passionate about their work, and want to be a part of my discussions on teacher evaluation and performance compensation. Teacher input is guiding this process and will continue to play a vital role in improving all aspects of education in Ohio. Keep visiting this blog for information and updates about my work and share your ideas so that you can be part of the positive change moving forward!
Clear Differences from New York
The New York Times ran a story this week about New York City’s choice to abandon a system that paid bonuses to teachers and staff in buildings that exceeded pre-set goals. According to the article, this program showed no impact on student achievement. An Ohio educator sent me another study out of Tennessee called the Project on Incentives in Teaching, or POINT experiment, which paid bonuses to teachers based on student gains on standardized tests. There are some clear and distinct differences between the programs in New York and Tennessee and what we aim to do here in Ohio. Ohio is building comprehensive evaluation and compensation plans that aim to identify and well-compensate great teachers based on multiple measures of their student achievement and their individual practice. Ours is not a bonus plan. We know great teachers are motivated by students, not by pay. I know that money wasn’t the reason that I went into the classroom, and it certainly wasn’t the reason that I worked so hard while I was there. But, high-performing teachers who are well-compensated are less likely to leave Ohio’s classrooms– which is right where we want them and right where we need them to be.
Made the Papers!
At the end of yesterday’s session, the press was invited in to speak with the Governor. The teachers in attendance listened in as Governor Kasich wrapped up and shared his overall impressions from our discussion. Media coverage from the event is linked below:
Columbus Dispatch: Kasich asks teachers to design merit-pay plan
Fox 8: Kasich's Ideas on Teacher Evaluations Sparks Debate in Ashland
The Governor’s Listening Session
We had a special guest at today’s listening session! Governor Kasich sat in with eight teachers as we discussed our thoughts on teacher evaluation and performance compensation. We had a great representative from Cincinnati who shared some details about how they make their evaluation system work. We also had a suggestion that teachers be given some choice about what pieces make up their own evaluation. Often in the classroom we allow students some choice in how they demonstrate their learning. Perhaps this option could be provided for educators. This suggestion sparked some very interesting conversation. Teachers also reiterated how important parent participation is in educating kids. We will continue to explore how best to include the parent involvement piece in the evaluation system. Governor Kasich made a point of saying that he feels that Ohio’s evaluation system needs to be developed by teachers so that is both fair and designed to help teachers grow.
Visiting with Southeast Ohio Teachers
In Chillicothe today, I met with a group of teachers from Southeast Ohio. These teachers shared their concerns over the Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests in their current form. I heard emotional stories of students who had grown so much in their classrooms but still struggled with their achievement tests. I could really relate to the sadness that comes for both a student and a teacher when a child feels they didn’t do well on something that they worked so hard to successfully complete.
Helping Teachers Understand the Budget
I have been getting a lot of questions about what Ohio’s new budget means for schools and teachers for the last few months. It is certainly a challenge to keep up with all of the changes that have occurred as the document moved through the legislature. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute offered a concise and understandable explanation of what it all can mean for the future of education in our state. I encourage you to check it out; it’s definitely worth your time.
Ohio’s Biennial Budget Sets the Conditions for Education Success
Great Ideas from Southwest Ohio
In Vandalia today it was suggested that we look into the Charlotte Danielson model for teacher evaluation. Danielson’s framework has a focus on planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. We also spent some time discussing the state of Ohio’s assessments. Some gifted and talented teachers voiced concerns that it was difficult for their students to show growth given the scope of existing assessments. We have heard similar concerns from intervention specialists. In West Chester, we had a great discussion about the differences in assessing teachers across grade levels. We had representatives from kindergarten to high school sharing their views. These teachers expressed concerns about a one-size fits all evaluation system. All of these discussions are bringing to light issues that must be addressed by a new performance compensation system. Thanks to everyone for their time!
Off to an Exciting Start
Today was a very exciting day! I had the opportunity to meet with teachers across Northeast Ohio and hear their questions, concerns, and suggestions about teacher evaluation and performance compensation. I was so impressed by the open and honest dialogue that we were able to have on this subject. I heard from almost everyone that teachers are not comfortable with a single-measure assessment, especially if that single measure is test scores. Teachers in Cuyahoga Falls suggested several measures that they thought should be included along with those scores to make a well-rounded assessment. Everything from teacher attendance to content knowledge to involvement outside of the school day was discussed. In Independence, we met a veteran teacher that had a lot of experience with the power of peer review. This led to a great discussion about whom teachers feel comfortable having review their work. As a classroom teacher myself, I found this conversation particularly interesting and I could certainly relate to the ideas and concerns expressed. We discussed the benefits and concerns with being reviewed by parents, peers, students, administrators, etc. I appreciate everyone who came out to talk with me and I look forward to my next round of discussions!
Let’s Hit the Road!
We’re hitting the road tomorrow, heading to Mahoning County, Independence, and Cuyahoga Falls. I’m really looking forward to meeting with my fellow teachers to hear more about their questions, concerns, and suggestions about performance compensation and teacher evaluation. It has been really interesting sorting through all of the responses that the governor has received via the teachers’ website. This is an issue about which there is certainly plenty of passion! Coming from the classroom myself, I can certainly understand the concerns that teachers are expressing and I am impressed by the innovative solutions I have read about. I look forward to sharing these ideas with the governor.