How CH-UH district evaluates its teachers
How often should teachers be evaluated to make sure they are continuing to grow and improve in their job? The state of Ohio does not give us much of choice in CH-UH about how often, or what should be scrutinized, even though we control some aspects of teacher evaluation locally.
Teachers must undergo two cycles of observations per year. These cycles make up the teacher-performance part of the evaluation. Each cycle comprises a pre- and post-conference, a full-length lesson, and short walk-throughs. Before the pre-conference, most administrators require the completion of an extensive worksheet as well as a detailed lesson plan. During the pre-conference, teachers must explain what they will be doing and why, how they determined what to do, how students will be grouped, what data supports the differentiation that each student will receive, and on and on and on. There are 10 areas to an evaluation, and teachers must try to document the rationale for what they are doing in each.
Teachers are to receive timely feedback throughout the process. The state of Ohio requires student growth measures, however flawed, to weigh in for half of the teacher’s evaluation; [these] scores may not be available by the end of school, so a teacher may not know where he stands until the next school year.
The teacher-performance part of the evaluation is understandable, though documenting every single thing one does in the course of a lesson is not always possible. Many variables may affect teacher performance: Some teachers are not placed in a subject or grade that they are best at teaching; some teachers may have 27 students in a class, while others may have 18; half a class of seventh-graders may include students with disabilities, while another may have none; some teachers prefer to teach the most-struggling students, while others are better at getting high achievers to stretch even further. It would be impossible to compare a teacher who is new to an area of teaching to someone who has been in the assignment for a long time. The variables are endless.
Teachers holding the same license are only compared when it comes to layoffs. The law dictates that the order of reduction is first non-tenured teachers, then tenured teachers with the same rating. So, it is possible that a second-year, non-tenured teacher could be retained over a 15-year veteran who may have been rated lower by an administrator or based on student test scores.
As much as we would like to believe that there is no subjectivity involved in the rating process, it would be impossible to say that the process is impartial. Most teachers end up earning the middle two ratings, but there are more variables than I could possibly list as to why a rating may be lower one year versus another.
The law has made teaching an unstable career, and teacher tenure has lost much of its protection. Some incorrectly believe that tenure protects poor teachers, but administration has ways to terminate teachers who are consistently unable to meet expectations and job requirements. Comparing teachers is not a good recipe for teacher collaboration—who would help a fellow teacher when he might be competing for the same job?
Luckily, in CH-UH we placed language in the 2013 negotiated agreement that allows for more predictability when there is a layoff. We have agreed that ineffective teachers should be the first to go; after that we follow seniority and tenure so that everyone knows the layoff order. It is not perfect, but it is my hope that we can keep language that enables us to use teacher evaluation as a growth tool, instead of one that drastically changes lives.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.