Public school education has gone through major changes over the past decade. Issues such as right to work, merit based payment and new evaluation systems increased tensions between those who educate and those who seek education. Ohio is no exception. Even as senate bill 5 met heavy opposition from teachers and organized labor unions, calls for school reform are still present.
This year a vast majority of schools implemented the New Ohio teacher evaluation system as mandated by the state government. Otherwise known as OTES, this instrument was used to increase the reader and expectations of future and present educators as a means to ensure improved student growth. It was met with opposition and many of its foes still decry its merits. There are however many benefits to carrying out the system:
• improved professional self efficacy
• Increased data-driven measurement
• higher and realistic expectations for children.
Improved professional self efficacy
There is nothing more vital to the sanity of an educator them the ability to reflect on practice. Similar to other work environments teachers can find themselves stuck in a rout and forgets that teaching to the test is not the only way to get strong student performance. The new evaluation system reminds us that differentiation is more than placing students in groups. Good education requires that we provide a variety of resources and a variety of assessment instruments. Teachers can still be creative with assessment design and use those tools to make sure that we’re providing the best education possible. Previous evaluation systems have not guaranteed to this safeguard nor honestly asked educators to provide strong evidence is that students are learning. This check has everything to do with teacher accountability as it does to teacher responsibility.
Increased data-driven measurement
We are now well entrenched in the world of Big Data. Numbers rules the day and requirement for teachers to constantly assess student learning is essential. But the new evaluation does not set a wee half tool only give multiple choice tests. Assessments and still be creative in design. They can beat performance-based. They could be a multigenre project. All that truly matters is that we can accurately protect student learning by looking at measurable objectives and how student work compares to those objectives. To receive a rating of either skilled or accomplished a teacher must use diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments multiple times throughout a learning experience. Interestingly enough, students really like checking their learning. They want to know how successful they are.
Higher and realistic expectations for children
The United States has not ranked within the top 10% for the majority of the PISA scoring. Compared to other nations that participate in the OECD assessment, we ranks somewhere in the middle for math and science. We have plateaued. Part of this has to do with poverty and home environments. Our expectations for student learning are also in that equation. While this new system in Ohio placed by legislators comes with heavy opposition from teachers, administrators and communities alike, we can’t avoid of the cold hard truth. It is the responsibility of teachers and administrators to educate the community about the expectations of students. There were times when teachers and principals could easily knock on the door of the students home and speak to parents about student expectations. The high standards of this evaluation system require that the doors of communication remained open more constantly. These conversations must be both proactive and reactive about student performance.
OTES is not the sole answer to our problems in student performance. It is not intended to balanced out of poverty and home situations that students come to school with preventing them from learning. It is only the beginning of honest communication between teachers, principals and community members. The message should be this – your children will be challenged, engaged, and given every opportunity to improve.