In Reynoldsburg, a small suburb east of Columbus, the district and teachers have entered into negotiations on a new contract. The proposal from the School Board displays a complete lack of understanding of the research surrounding best practices as well as the state’s new teacher evaluation system.
The Board’s proposal includes two very significant changes from traditional contracts described in a slick marketing flyer (see end of post).
First, the elimination of health coverage provided by the school district:
The Board will convert its current spending on one-size-fits-all health insurance coverage to cash payments directly to employees.
The amount of this “cash payment” is not described in the documentation and there is no indication of whether it would be projected to increase annually along with the projected rate of increase of health insurance costs.
Second, and more importantly, the Board proposes using the results of Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System to determine whether or not teachers would get pay raises. Not only does this fly in the face of numerous research studies that show that merit pay is not an incentive for teachers, but it also displays a complete lack of understanding of how the state’s evaluation system works. The Board proposes to grant teachers rated Accomplished (the highest overall rating) a 4 percent raise. Skilled teachers would get a 2 percent raise, Developing teachers would earn a 1 percent raise, and teachers rated in the lowest category, Ineffective, would not get a pay bump.
From the School Board’s marketing proposal:
- While we provide that there will be no reductions in pay under our proposal, we tie future increases to student learning, with results being a significant – but not exclusive – factor in future compensation decisions.
- The plan provides that our truly great teachers earn substantially more than teachers who have not yet attained that status.
- The compensation plan will be fair, accurate and rigorous, and will be applied uniformly throughout the district.
Let’s break these points down.
First, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System originated in the Educator Standards Board and was designed to be a “growth model” for educators. It was designed to identify areas of strength and areas where teachers had challenges in order to help them identify ways to improve their practices annually. In this way, there is never an endpoint for a teacher; it’s not a “final grade”, but is instead always a point-in-time evaluation that seeks to help each individual teacher continually evaluate and improve.
The three bullet points above also presume that each teacher is evaluated identically – a premise that could not be further from the truth. In reality, teacher’s have widely varying factors involved in their daily work that would absolutely prevent the plan from being “applied uniformly throughout the district” and would, in practice, allow the Reynoldsburg Board and administration to game the system to reach their desired outcomes.
Here are a few examples:
- Teachers of reading and math in grades 4-8 are required by state law to use value-added results based on the state-mandated Ohio Achievement Assessments over which they have no control; tests that are not even publicly released after they are given. Teachers in other grades/subjects demonstrate student growth using other, locally defined measures. In some cases these may be teacher-created assessments with teacher-identified learning goals. In other cases, as I suspect Reynoldsburg would opt for, the district gets to dictate the assessments and learning targets for students — targets based on someone’s random opinion and not vetted on the same level as the Ohio Achievement Assessments. In this way, linking compensation increases to future decisions in pay is not “uniform” in any definition of the word.
- By state law, and as reported to the state of Ohio, only those educators who teach students 50% of the time or more are subject to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System. Non-classroom educators, such as guidance counselors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, school nurses, psychologists, etc., have different requirements as they do not have the same direct responsibility for the delivery and assessment of subject-matter content. These educators are at the mercy of the administration and School Board for their model of evaluation. In some cases, these individuals are simply linked to the value-added results of the building(s) in which they work, a system called shared attribution. These educators would have absolutely no say in their student growth results. Again, not “uniform”.
- Some teachers are actually “exempt” from the student growth measures component of the state’s evaluation system. If an educator (think teachers serving small groups of students with multiple disabilities) has six or fewer students in a class, they do not qualify for demonstrating academic growth of their students as the population is too small to be statistically reliable. These teachers might then have their entire evaluation outcome based on the opinions of their evaluator.
- At least half of a teacher’s entire evaluation is based on a designation identified by their evaluator (often the principal or assistant principal). The evaluator visits the classroom setting multiple times throughout the year to observe and gather evidence that is based on the OTES rubric. The evaluator also meets with the teacher at least four times to discuss their observations and gather more evidence through these discussions. At the end of the year, after a minimum of eight interactions with the teacher, the evaluator considers all of the evidence they have gathered and then simply assigns a final rating based on their holistic opinion (Accomplished, Skilled, Developing, or Ineffective) of what they have observed. This assigned rating is weighted to be at least half of the final rating. If this compensation model is agreed to, it is very easy to imagine Reynoldsburg’s principals being given specific quotas as far as assigning final ratings, especially as money in the district gets tight and they simply can’t afford too many Accomplished or Skilled teachers.
- This compensation model offers no incentive for the school district to help teachers improve. The district does not receive additional funding from any source based on the ratings of its teachers. In this proposal, if teachers continually improve and advance across the levels — from Developing to Skilled or Skilled to Accomplished — it merely causes the district to have to find additional funding to compensate these teachers. Therefore, the district has no financial incentive to help its teachers improve (the very foundation of the system), yet every financial incentive to keep teachers in the lower categories.
- Evaluation results from the Ohio Department of Education do not follow the school year schedule, delaying compensation decisions for some teachers, but not for others. For those teachers relying on their individual teacher-level value-added reports (grades 4-8 reading and/or math only), those results were not released until November 15 last year. They were originally scheduled for a September release date, still well after the school year begins. Because these results are released late (previous year’s evaluation outcomes are legislated to be reported by early May), these testing outcomes are applied on the following year’s evaluation, meaning that any teacher who did advance their rating based on student performance would have any pay raise delayed by a full year, while those teachers using the district-level assessments would receive their pay raises in the very next school year. Again, not “fair, accurate, or applied uniformly throughout the district” as the School Board claims.
These are simply a few of the numerous reasons that this proposal is utterly ignorant. We’d love to hear from other teachers in the comments about your experiences with the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System this year with even more reasons this compensation plan is fatally flawed. Why would you never accept such an absurd proposal?
Here is the full marketing flyer from the Reynoldsburg School Board: