Senate bill would allow students to help grade teachers

"I don’t think that teachers should necessarily be at the mercy of a 6-year-old."
MCT Regional News
Dec 4, 2013

In a development some may relish, students may get chances to help grade their teachers under a fast-tracked bill headed for an Ohio Senate vote as soon as today.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved a bill designed to ease some of the constraints on school administrators and lessen, in some cases, reliance on standardized student-achievement test results for determining whether teachers make the grade.

Student evaluations of their teachers’ performance could be part of the mix under an amendment added Tuesday.

“I don’t think that teachers should necessarily be at the mercy of a 6-year-old … but that student feedback should not be anomalous,” said Greg Harris, state director for the Washington-based StudentsFirst organization. “It should be in the context of the other kinds of feedback.”

Current law requires all teachers to be evaluated annually, with 50 percent of their scores determined by improvement in student performance, most likely as judged through standardized tests. Senate Bill 229 — sponsored by state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), a former teacher — would reduce that mandated component to 35 percent, making the other 15 percent optional.

It also would remove the mandate that higher-performing teachers be subjected to full-fledged evaluations every year, allowing other options such as student surveys, classroom observations, and even teacher self-evaluations to fill the gap

Bill amendments seemed to bring on board previously wary groups such as StudentsFirst and Seattle-based Education First. But the Ohio Federation of Teachers, which has supported the bill, voiced caution about the last-minute changes.

“Are we still overburdening the system so that we’re not going to be able to have the kind of conversations that we’d like to take place in order to see that professional growth happens?” asked OFT President Melissa Cropper. “[If] we’re still tying administrators’ hands so that they have to observe every teacher every year and evaluate teachers every year, I’m not sure if that is better than it was before.”

The bill could reach the Senate floor as soon as today, but it likely will have to wait until January for House consideration. Lawmakers are expected to head home for the holidays next week.

The changes would take effect next school year, so the first year of annual evaluations under current law will take place as scheduled this school year.

But if the bill passes, teachers categorized as “accomplished” based on that first evaluation will not have to go through a full-fledged evaluation again for three years.

Mr. Gardner stressed, however, that every teacher would still go through some sort of evaluation annually.

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By Jim Provance - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

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