Ohio legislators have once again modified the Ohio teacher evaluation system this month through passage of House Bill 362. The bill, which still awaits the Governor’s signature, reduces the frequency of evaluations for certain teachers and also creates an optional alternative evaluation framework that districts may elect to use as early as the 2014-2015 school year. Changes from the bill include the following.

First, HB 362 modified ORC 3319.111 by granting a board of education the discretionary authority to evaluate teachers who receive a rating of “Accomplished” on their most recent evaluations every three years. Likewise, Boards may also choose to evaluate “Skilled” teachers every two years. The law further specifies that in order to qualify for either of the above, a teacher must receive a student growth measure score of average or higher on the most recent evaluation (note that under the state-approved rubric, a teacher cannot receive a summative rating score of “Skilled” or “Accomplished” unless he or she received a SGM score that was average or higher). If a board elects either option, a credentialed evaluator must conduct at least one observation and hold at least one conference in each year that a teacher is not formally evaluated. The new law is silent as to whether a district must also gather student growth measure data in off years.

Additionally, the bill permits a board of education to elect not to evaluate teachers who have been on leave for at least fifty percent (50%) of the school year, and/or who have submitted a notice of retirement which has been accepted by the board no later than December 1st.

Finally, HB 362 establishes an alternative teacher evaluation framework under a new statute, ORC 3319.114. The alternative framework reduces the value of the teacher performance and student growth measure scores, and incorporates an additional measure derived from one of the following: student surveys, teacher self-evaluations, peer review evaluations, or student portfolios. The statute specifies that should a board elect to use the alternative framework for 2014-2015, a teacher’s final summative rating must be based on the following:

  • 42.5% teacher performance rating;
  • 42.5% student growth measure; and
  • 15% from one of the additional measures listed above

For 2015-2016 and beyond, a school board has some discretion to determine the value of the three components. However, the teacher performance and student growth measures must each count for at least 42.5% of the score. And, the new law requires that an equal percentage of the final summative rating be allocated to teacher performance and student growth. The remaining percentage of the summative rating will be derived from the chosen alternative tool.

Under the new statute, the Ohio Department of Education must compile a list of approved instruments for districts to use with the alternative framework. School districts are required to select evaluation instruments from amongst that list.

As with previous OTES and OPES modifications, a number of questions remain about whether the changes will actually improve the process and ease the burden of evaluations for school administrators and teachers, or whether they will merely create additional traps that snare the unwary. One of the primary concerns is the fact that the bill will not become effective until mid-September, nearly one month after most districts begin the 2014-2015 school year. And, in order to roll out the new system by 2014-2015, the Department has only a few months to select alternative evaluation tools, and even less time to determine the validity of the data each tool captures. Finally, while the prospect of reducing the frequency of evaluations is enticing, this practice may weaken the validity of future evaluation results for teachers, which will ultimately impact a board of education’s ability to make solid employment decisions. For these reasons, districts should be cautious to embrace the new changes until additional analysis is conducted. In the least, districts should contact legal council before adopting evaluation policy changes for this upcoming school year.

To review HB 362 in its entirety, click here.