Senate Bill 229, the bill designed to provide reasonable changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), passed unanimously through the Ohio Senate back in December.  Today, a substitute version of the bill was introduced in the House Education Committee that completely overhauled the existing version of the legislation.  The version of SB 229 that we have been reporting on is no longer recognizable in the new House version.

The full text of the new SB229 isn’t available in its entirety, but we have obtained a document from the Legislative Service Commission that details the many modifications introduced today.  Honestly, a full discussion of the entire bill will take a few posts to explore fully, but we needed to get some of the early changes out to you immediately and highlight some of the absurdity contained in the new bill.

First and foremost, the House added language that, according the LSC document, “Exempts from collective bargaining all amendments made by the bill to Revised Code provisions regarding educator evaluations.”  This unnecessary step is a direct shot at any local control that districts can exercise with regard to negotiations with teacher unions and is reminiscent of 2011’s Senate Bill 5 tactics at eroding unions in Ohio.  We won’t be able to get a full look at this aspect of the legislation until the full bill is published publicly, but we can be sure that this sets the tone for this entire overhaul and gives us direct insight to the direction the House Education Committee wants to proceed.  We’ll be sure to provide more details about this key turn of events in the bill as more information becomes available.

Next, instead of giving local districts flexibility to reduce the Student Growth Measures component down to 35%, the new bill eliminates that lower bar and maintains the minimum of 50% of a teacher’s evaluation at 50% as it now exists in state law.  This means that value-added measures would remain as a full half of a teacher’s evaluation.  The only exception to this will exist in a yet-to-be-developed framework that would add the option of using student surveys (designed by the Ohio Department of Education) to evaluate a teacher.

The new bill also puts into law some components of the OTES model that have already been created by the Ohio Department of Education and are already in practice:

  • Establishes 5 ranges of scores for the Student Growth component (most effective, above average, average, below average, least effective)
  • Establishes 4 scores for the teacher performance level (1 -4), with 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest.  This also already exists in the OTES model and the scores are designated by name (Ineffective, Developing, Skilled, Accomplished).

Then, in the first of numerous conflicting parts of this legislation, it adds a 5th possible performance level rating of “effective” between Skilled and Developing.

To clarify that contradiction in this new bill, it mandates FOUR levels for teacher performance in one place, then adds a FIFTH level in a different place.

In addition to that oddity, there is more that reveals that the drafters of this new version of SB229 are ignorant of the content.  In the Senate version of the bill, it permitted teachers receiving a rating of Accomplished to only go through the evaluation process once every three years.  The House scrapped that idea, reverting back to the law which specifies that Accomplished or Skilled teachers must be evaluated every other year, but added a further condition to allow that to happen.  In order for an Accomplished or Skilled teacher to be only evaluated every other year, that teacher must receive a rating of “average” or higher on the Student Growth Measures component.

Here’s why that added condition is ridiculous.  The bill includes a new Final Rating Table that would show where a teacher ends up after their performance level is merged with their student growth measures.

RATINGTABLE

Again, the added condition states that an Accomplished or Skilled teacher must receive a rating of “average” or higher on the Student Growth Measures component to qualify to be evaluated every other year.  Look at the chart for the words Accomplished and Skilled.  Now look at the Student Academic Growth Measures ratings on the left.  It is IMPOSSIBLE for a teacher to be Accomplished or Skilled without getting “average” or higher on the student growth component!  The condition that the House has added to this bill is completely redundant and wholly irrelevant!

Another extremely important addition to pay attention to is a piece that essentially mandates that a teacher be fired based on their evaluation (again, removing local decision-making). The bill adds language that “prohibits a school district from assigning students to a teacher who has been rated “ineffective” for two consecutive school years”. For one, this does not permit a district to continue to provide professional development assistance to a teacher who may be misplaced in a grade or subject, but this also opens the door for districts to intentionally assign teachers in areas for which they may be underprepared with the goal of being “forced” to fire the teacher based on the state law and preventing the teacher from seeking future employment as an educator, regardless of any additional education the teacher might pursue.  This is one more example of the legislators working to take over schools by micromanaging the laws impacting local decision-making.

There is a great deal more in this new bill to discuss, but we want to highlight one additional, substantial change to this bill that takes it in an entirely new direction away from simple modifications to the Evaluation system.

“Not later than July 1, 2016, requires the Department [of Education] to develop a standardized framework for assessing student academic growth for grade levels and subjects for which the value-added progress dimension does not apply”.

They are once again talking about statewide standardized assessments for every subject and every grade, K-12.

In addition to that gem, the bill “requires each school district board of education to administer an assessment to students in each of grades K-12 to determine a teacher’s student growth in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.  Assessments must be selected by the Department of Education and based on value-added progress dimension…”

In short, standardized tests in every grade in the four core subject areas will be developed and required to be administered beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.

This addition of standardized tests in all grades and subjects also includes language that would require the Ohio Department of Education to identify outside vendors to produce these tests, meaning that for-profit testing companies stand to profit substantially if this component proceeds unchanged.

This final piece is also not new to Ohio legislation.  Let’s go back again to Senate Bill 5.  We wrote an article about this attempt to bring in standardized tests to all grades and subjects back in June, 2011, when it was a part of Senate Bill 5.  At that time we calculated that such a provision would cost the state over $300 million to implement.  You can read that article here.  We do not see any additional funding provisions attached with the new SB 229 that would meet this financial need.

Friends, SB 229 was a simple bill designed to make reasonable corrections to a newly-implemented evaluation system.  Now, the House is clearly trying to bring back components of Senate Bill 5 in an effort to lord over the state’s public school system.

Are you ready for this fight?

#RememberInNovember

 

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  • sluggo

    There really is no point in analyzing the bill. They just threw a bunch of poison pills into it to make sure it never passed. In doing so, House Ed, Chairman Gerald Stebleton, and their education advisor Colleen Grady gave the Senate and the K12 education community the finger.

  • becca

    This makes an already bad bill worse. Looking forward to your synopsis Greg.

  • amyvav

    Keep the info (however nauseating) coming, Greg. We have begun piloting the new PARCC assessments for Common Core in our district this week. Based on the sample questions which are available online, I do not foresee overwhelming success at our tiny district. We continue to work our tails off, and the bar and the stakes continue to be raised. Actually, I would think that the scores in most districts will be plunging a bit for the next year or two. Just enough time to fire us all? I hope sluggo’s right and this thing just doesn’t pass. As crappy as the current legislation is, it might be a well-enough-alone situation. Maybe that’s their plan. Regardless, if this thing gains life, we need to get organized and act.

  • Pascal

    These people are possessed. There is no other explanation.

  • wetsu

    As overbearing as the changes may be I am wondering what the point would be to crafting something for the purpose of it not passing? This is not taking any exception at all to your viewpoint, sluggo, I am simply wondering what you believe their reason(s) would be for coming up with something they hope will fail?

  • sluggo

    Legislators do this all the time to prevent a bill from passing. Colleen Grady runs ed policy for the House Republican Caucus and she is dead set against relaxing the value added provisions of OTES. Students First (Michelle Rhee’s org) also lined up people to testify against it.

    The House has been getting a lot of contacts from educators who want a fix to OTES but they have no desire to change it. They aren’t for it and the governor is not for it either. Most bills could just be allowed to die in committee but you really can’t do that when the Senate passes something unanimously and the education community is lobbying hard for it. So the way to kill the bill is to put a lot of stuff in it that the supporters can’t abide – when you read the provisions, it’ll be pretty obvious that they didn’t really want to find any middle ground with the supporters.

    The attitude seemed be just a big F-U to the supporters – “we’re not going to pass your dumb bill, so there.”

  • wetsu

    Thank you.

  • Red Rover

    Possessed with greed and malice, yes.

  • Natalie

    Are parents allowed to opt their kids out of these tests?

  • amyvav

    There are ways to opt out (not sure with regards to the reading guarantee). However, those students’ scores count as 0’s on all report cards, Value-Added, etc. So, great for the kid, but the ramifications for the district are quite negative. BUT… What would happen if all the parents of all the kids in all the schools organized a mass opt-out? A wildcat strike on the tests, if you will… Hmmm.

  • Natalie

    It is in the back of their mind right now. I can’t tell you how many parents have asked me about what their options are. They are sick and tired of the emphasis of testing being the focus of their kids’ education.

  • Think.

    The law was written, so parents cannot opt their kids out of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

  • becca

    Parents are boycotting in Chicago. Teachers hands may be somewhat tied – but trust me, they’ll probably support you for exercising your parental right.

  • amyvav

    Thanks. Another side effect for them… It’s so hard to keep up with our own grade level requirements, it’s hard to keep up to date and stay unified with everyone else.

  • amyvav

    The concern is, it has to be nearly all the parents. The way these changes are written, if only some opt out, that teacher’s scores will tank and he or she could be gone in two years… In our district, there are only around 50-70 kids per grade level, so our percentages can’t absorb a 0 score here and there.

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