November 24, 2014

Medina
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Teachers, administrators challenge educator rating system

Kiera Manion-Fischer and Loren Genson

Medina teachers and school administrators have joined forces to lobby the legislature for changes in the rating system that will be used to evaluate teachers statewide next year.

A letter signed by the Medina teachers’ union president and school curriculum officials asks state lawmakers to reduce the role played by tests to determine how much students learn in a single school year.

Medina Schools interim Superintendent David Knight, center, lays out plans for what will happen should the November levy fail during Monday’s board meeting. Medina resident Mark Kuhar, creator of the “Medina City Schools Outrage” Facebook page, has started a petition calling on board members Karla Robinson, third from left, and Susan Vlcek, far left, to resign if the board expects residents to approve a November levy. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System now calls for those “value added” scores to make up 50 percent of an individual teacher’s rating. Classroom observation, done twice a year, and other professional criteria make up the other half.

“Half of most teachers’ evaluations will be based on how their students perform on a single test in a single day — numbers that don’t adequately represent the whole child,” said to a letter signed by John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers’ Association; Kris Quallich, director of educational services; Tina Cassidy, primary curriculum coordinator and Christina Hank, secondary curriculum coordinator.

The letter, which was released Tuesday, calls on legislators to approve changes in the system contained in House Bill 59, the amended omnibus state budget bill.

“House Bill 59 tries to lessen the impact of this unreliable data from 50 percent to 35 percent,” the letter states. “And while the reliance on data from a single snapshot in time is still not perfect, it is better than current legislation.”

The “value-added” ratings of student growth are determined by state test scores in reading and math for grades four through eight. The five possible ratings are “most efficient,” “above average,” “average,” “approaching average” and “least effective.”

In other grades and subject areas, the teacher evaluations will be determined by each school district using other measures, including national tests approved for use in Ohio.

Based on the combined evaluations, teachers will get one of four possible overall ratings: “accomplished,” “proficient,” “developing” or “ineffective.”

The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System was originally included in Senate Bill 5, which was rejected by Ohio voters in 2011, Leatherman said. But the system was later included in Gov. John Kasich’s budget.

Quallich is working on a plan to deal with the workload created by the evaluation system.

“Since it’s an unfunded mandate, we’re really struggling with how to find assistance for our principals,” the director of educational services said. “While we don’t disagree with it, we really are struggling with it.”

Quallich said the district would not hire outside help to observe teachers, but it would look at a plan to help principals administer the buildings while they do the work of evaluating teachers.

In other districts

Brunswick Superintendent Michael Mayell is trying a different approach to administering the new teaching standards.

Carol Yost, principal of Visintainer Middle School, and Kent Morgan, principal at Edwards Middle School, will both move to the central office where they have been asked to serve as assistant directors for the Ohio Teacher’s Evaluation System.

Mayell said principals would have been overwhelmed in administering the new standards while also attending to the daily duties in their buildings. He said it made sense to add positions to provide support.

“You either have to find someone from outside your district or reconfigure your organization,” Mayell said. “We’d rather do it internally than hire someone from outside.”

The union representing Brunswick teachers agrees.

Bob Blessinger, president of the Brunswick Education Association, said he was pleased with the way the district planned to handle it, and added that it makes sense for schools to put their energies toward finding the best way to administer the new state guidelines.

“We’re always kind of at the forefront when it comes to what’s coming down from the state,” Blessinger said. “Brunswick likes to hop on and be a part of the process instead of fighting the process.”

Blessinger praised the administration for setting up a plan to use administrators familiar with the district.

“When you bring in outside people, it makes things a little difficult,” he said.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.