Local school districts and the Ohio Department of Education knew that launching a new statewide teacher evaluation system would be difficult, but they never thought they would have to worry about introducing their Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) 2.0 during a pandemic.

“It’s just another one of the challenges that school districts are responding to in the state of Ohio right now along with all the other complications created as a result of the pandemic,” said Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon. Dr. Hanlon said Ohio House Bill 197 provided a choice for schools to delay the implementation of OTES 2.0 to the 2020-21 school year, an option which Chardon and other local districts in Solon and Orange chose to pursue.

Jill Grub, the Assistant Director of the Office of Educator Equity and Talent at the Ohio Department of Education, said schools were given the option to delay the new system because of the current situation, since a lot of important data is collected during March and April. She also said the biggest change between OTES 1.0 and 2.0 is that the new system doesn’t break down into a numerical rating; instead, data is evaluated qualitatively.

“So there’s no math in this, this is just holistic,” Dr. Grub said, “It’s an opportunity for a lot more conversation between the evaluator and the teacher.” Dr. Grub explained that, in OTES 1.0, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation was based on their teaching style and method, while the other 50 percent would come from student assessments, like state standardized tests.

Essentially, the process of looking at teacher data hasn’t changed, but evaluating what OTES 2.0 calls High Quality Student Data has. Dr. Grub mentioned that her Department has been receiving extremely positive feedback from the 76 school districts who piloted the program this year, but she also said most schools won’t start using OTES 2.0 until the 2020-21 school year. This puts schools in a tough spot for finishing teacher evaluations for the current year.

Orange Schools Superintendent Lynn Campbell said her district has had to make some changes to allow teacher evaluations to occur remotely for this school year. “For the current year, we’re going to treat the last teacher observation the way we do administrators,” Dr. Campbell explained. “Within OTES, there’s also the Ohio Principal Evaluation System, OPES.” This takes the form of administrators sitting down with teachers for a one-on-one, Q&A format Zoom meeting as they run through a lesson.

Dr. Campbell said that getting an entire classroom of students to all sit in on a live remote session would make it easier to complete a traditional teacher evaluation, but would be difficult to coordinate in his district because students are primarily learning from pre-recorded videos.

Fred Bolden, who is serving as the temporary superintendent of the Solon City School District, said this year’s evaluations are made especially complicated by the fact that there are different methods for assessing the student growth half of the evaluations under OTES 1.0. He said that, under the current system, schools are allowed to choose between two different systems for calculating student growth: shared attribution or Student Learning Objectives.

According to Dr. Hanlon, shared attribution is data that encapsulates groups of students and is usually acquired from looking at state-issued assessment tests. On the other hand, SLOs are assessment tests, usually conducted at the start and end of each school year, that districts themselves create and administer to keep track of individual students’ growth rates. Chardon uses data from SLOs, while the Districts in Orange and Solon are using shared attribution.

Mr. Bolden said OTES 2.0 will require schools develop their own standards and methods of evaluating students’ educational growth, which is more in line with what is considered a Student Learning Objective under OTES 1.0; shared attribution will no longer be an option.

Dr. Campbell believes that schools using SLOs this year are at a disadvantage when it comes to completing their 2020 teacher evaluations because they aren’t able to conduct a spring test to compare with the results of their fall observation. Instead, Dr. Hanlon said Chardon is using shared attribution data, comparing students’ report cards from last school year with this year’s records, to assess the student body’s growth rate.

Much like traditional student grading, Dr. Grub said OTES 1.0 and OTES 2.0 will use a rubric to assess teachers. Instead of calculating a score, evaluators will now be responsible for observing teachers and then placing teachers’ skills into one of four different categories depending on the description on the rubric: Ineffective, Developing, Skilled or Accomplished.

For example, teachers will be marked “developing” on the communication and collaboration with families component of the rubric if their behavior matches the respective description: “The teacher uses inconsistent and/or ineffective communication and engagement strategies with students and families.”

“The biggest challenge is going to be to understand the role that data plays and how it’s different, “ Dr. Grub explained, “because [administrators] are so used to achieving that student growth measure rating and doing the math, and now it’s identifying High Quality Student Data and how the teacher is then utilizing that data in their classroom.”

Even if districts might have difficulty adapting to the type of data they’re going to be looking at, Dr. Grub thinks OTES 2.0 is a huge improvement that will lead to more opportunities for career improvement. “We’re hopeful that the evaluation process will be viewed more as a professional growth opportunity,” she said, “with a lot of professional conversation around practice.”

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