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Tell me again what we are evaluating?

Tom Dunn

March 11, 2014

I must admit there are occasions when I attend training sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) when I just sit and shake my head in amazement, wondering who in their right mind would believe what we are being told. A couple of weeks ago my latest training on the new teacher evaluation system was certainly one of those occasions.


To be fair to the ODE, most of their sessions are little more than an attempt to make some sense out of a crazy mandate the legislature has created, and the teacher evaluation training certainly fits that bill.


The purpose of this particular training was to show a large room of administrators, many of whom have effectively evaluated teachers for years, how to navigate the online component of this new system. In other words, it had no practical use at all. It was merely an exercise in bureaucracy so someone in Columbus can check up on us.


What we know is that when the evaluation process is complete this year, every teacher’s final rating must be posted online so “Big Brother” will know how many teachers in each district are rated “Accomplished,” “Skilled,” “Developing,” or “Ineffective.” Now, they tell us there is no quota for the number of teachers in each category, but they have also informed us that if too many teachers are rated too highly it may trigger an audit of our results. HHMMM, that sounds like a quota to me. But, that’s not the best part. The best part was the explanation for how students’ test results may account for up to half of a teacher’s final evaluation this year.


Now, keep in mind the geniuses in Columbus have been clamoring for quite some time about using student test scores as a means of evaluating teachers. Reasonable people could debate either side of that argument until the cows come home. But, as they so often do, our “leaders” have eliminated the need for such a debate by creating a system that so defies logic that there is no need to argue.


We’ve known since the creation of this new system that students’ test scores from this school year will not be received by districts within the timeline legally required to complete teacher evaluations. But, not to be deterred, the bureaucrats have come up with a plan, as asinine as it is.


In the absence of this year’s test results, they’ve decided it is okay to use scores from LAST YEAR’S tests as well as results from TWO YEARS AGO to perform an evaluation on a teacher’s performance for this year. Yes, you read that right. THIS YEAR’S teacher evaluations will include test results from ONE AND TWO YEARS AGO! How would you like to defend a bad evaluation using that practice in a court of law?


Let’s apply this reasoning to the world of medicine. Pretend for a minute that two years ago you had medical tests that indicated that you had a terminal illness. In the interim you have received the most aggressive treatments possible and it is time for you to be re-evaluated. But, for some reason you can’t get the results of new tests at this time, so your doctor figures, what the heck, we have some results from two years ago. We’ll just use them to see how you are doing.


Who in their right mind would think that is okay? And, who in their right mind would think that what the folks in Columbus are doing with teacher evaluations is any better?