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Does OTES Serve a Purpose Anymore?

The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has been a mess since it was first appropriated by the Governor and his corporate education reform allies in the legislature. Intended to stack and rank teachers based primarily on student test scores, it has come under increasing fire. Not only has the system proven to be ineffective at measuring teacher quality, but its application has been scattershot, unfair and under constant change.

The real deal killer however has been the proliferation of testing that teacher accountability programs have created. What started as a few voices opposed to the avalanche of test requirements, has now become a widespread revolt. This revolt is causing law makers both in the state legislature and DC to take a fresh look at what they have wrought.

The first opportunity in Ohio to do so has come via the Governor's budget, where he builds upon ODE's test reduction report. Gone are SLO's and in their place is shared attribution
(c) Beginning with teacher evaluations for the 2015-2016 school year, if a teacher’s schedule is comprised of grade levels, courses, or subjects for which the value-added progress dimension prescribed by section 3302.021 of the Revised Code or an alternative student academic progress measure if adopted under division (C)(1)(e) of section 3302.03 of the Revised Code does not apply, nor is student progress determinable using the assessments required by division (B)(2) of this section, the teacher’s student academic growth factor shall be determined using a method of attributing student growth determined in accordance with guidance issued by the department of education.
The use of shared attribution is highly dubious. In Tennessee it is leading to lawsuits
Two accomplished teachers will file a lawsuit today in Nashville, Tennessee, to challenge the evaluation of most teachers in the state based on the standardized test scores of students in courses they did not teach. The teachers are joined by their representatives from the Tennessee Education Association and the Metropolitan Nashville and Anderson County Education Associations in the lawsuit, which is being prosecuted by the National Education Association and TEA. The lawsuit argues that these arbitrary, irrational and unfair policies violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Students in Tennessee are being shortchanged because of the state’s arbitrary and irrational evaluation system that provides no meaningful feedback on their instruction,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “This unfair broken system conditions the teacher’s employment on the basis of standardized test scores for courses they do not teach, including some from students they do not teach at all. The system is senseless and indefensible but, worst of all, it doesn’t help kids.”

More than half of Tennessee teachers are being evaluated in the same arbitrary and irrational manner. While most teachers do not teach courses that use standardized tests, a Tennessee statue still requires that all teachers be evaluated substantially on the basis of student growth estimates calculated from student test scores using the state’s value-added model.
In Ohio as Greg Mild at Plunderbund points out, even ODE questions its use
The Ohio Department of Education recommends careful consideration and collaboration regarding the use of shared attribution data for teachers of kindergarten through grade 12, as the intent of the new evaluation system is to capture the truest picture of an individual teacher’s impact on his or her student population.

Ultimately, the use of a shared attribution measure, including the percentage of weight designated within guidelines set in law, is a district decision. Student growth measures should collectively represent each individual teacher’s impact on student learning for his or her particular student population. Therefore, choosing to use shared attribution at any level should not be taken lightly.
Stepping back from the dubious nature of using shared attribution, one really needs to ask what's the point of it all?

If a cohort of educators in a school district, say music teachers, are all going to receive up to 50% of their evaluation based on some global shared attribution number, then only their observations performed by the district are going to differentiate their performance anyway. Why even bother using shared attribution in the first place? Once again OTES, rather than measuring an educators performance will be measuring a school, or districts, demographics and making high stakes decisions based off of it.

It's time the legislature simply scrapped OTES and rubrics trying to tie student growth to individual teachers. Instead, the legislature should once again empower the Educators Standard Board to develop a simple, effective and fair evaluation system - Or - they could just leave the whole evaluation process under local control and stop meddling.

BUDGET BRIEFING: K-12 Education

Innovation Ohio has released a 1 page budget briefing covering the main issues contained in the Governor's two year budget.

The Basics

Governor Kasich’s two-year budget includes additional funding through the state’s formula that funds school districts and charter schools, adding about $700 million more to the amount spent on education. However, the increase is offset by continued reduction ($236 million) in reimbursement payments to districts for lost Tangible Personal Property and Public Utility taxes, as well as increases to charter schools and transportation funding, which is wrapped into the formula funding now.

The bottom line is this: even with the modest increases, more than 55 percent of Ohio school districts will see less direct state aid than they saw in the 2010-2011 budget. Despite a record-sized budget of $72 billion, the net increase for education is only $464 million, which remains below inflationary growth levels. The increases generally happen in poorer districts with the cuts coming from wealthier districts, but there are plenty of examples of poor districts seeing cuts (Symmes Valley) and wealthy districts (Green Local in Summit County) seeing increases.

By the Numbers
  • $464 million Net increase to schools out of a record-sized budget of $72 billion (GRF) +$700 million Increase to schools, -$236 million Cut in Tangible Personal Property and Public Utility Reimbursements
  • 323 Number of districts seeing cuts in the 2015-2016 school year compared with 2014-2015
  • 290 Number of districts seeing cuts in the 2016-2017 school year compared with 2015-2016
  • $100 Annual per pupil increase for districts and charters in each year of the biennium
  • 339 Number of districts that have less direct state aid than they did 6 years ago

Significant Policy Changes

Cracks Down On Charter Sponsors, But Not Charter Schools. Some of the changes are helpful, but they nearly all focus on the sponsors of charter schools instead of the schools themselves.

Keeps The Straight A Fund. Continues the Straight A Fund at $100 million a year.

Increases Funding For Edchoice. Expands the expansion of EdChoice vouchers from last year, more than doubling the amount and moving funding to the GRF rather than lottery money.

More Than Triples The Number Of Spots For Early Childhood. Increases to 17,000 the number of students in early childhood programs. Would allow some charters to have preschool kids. Still accounts for barely 1/3 of all preschool students.

Reduces Testing To No More Than 2 Percent Of School Time And Gives Flexibility To Districts For NonReading Tests In Early Grades.

Increases Auxiliary Services And Administrative Cost Reimbursement Payments To Private Schools. Again increases the amount of public funds going to private schools.

District-by-District Funding Impacts of Ohio Charter Schools

Innovation Ohio has just released a report looking at the impact the Governor's budget will have distrcit funding when increased charter school payments are factored in.
The Basics
Gov. John Kasich's proposed two-year, $72 billion state budget provides only a modest overall net increase in education funding of $464 million, with fewer than half of Ohio school districts (301 of 609) seeing increased funding in 2017.

However, when funding to charter schools is factored in, one in three of those districts will see their increases erased. After charter school deductions, just 200 out of 609 Ohio public school districts see actual funding increases in year two of the proposed budget.

In the last year for which data is available, $380 million in state funding was redirected from higher-performing traditional public school districts to charter schools with poorer performance grades on the state report card. Over a biennium, that’s $760 million going to worse options for kids, or two-thirds more than the Governor’s proposed $464 million increase in K12 education funding.

By the Numbers
  • 301 Districts receiving an overall increase in FY 2017 compared to FY 2015
  • 101 Districts where the increased funding is less than the amount the district lost to charter schools in the 2013-2014 school year
  • $760 million Minimum amount of money sent to worse performing charter schools from higher performing districts over a biennium, based on 2012-2013 school year data
  • $464 million Net increase to school districts through the state’s foundation funding formula in this budget
Their full report with tables showing specific losses to each distrcit can be seen here.

Tri-Valley Super Blasts PARCC and ODE

Here's a copy of a letter the Superintendent of Tri-Valley schools is sending to parents
We have started to receive some calls regarding the school district’s position on whether or not parents should consider opting out their children from PARCC testing. I know that many schools around the state have been dealing with this issue for a while, and it appears to have now reached Tri-Valley.

While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC Testing, Ohio got into this testing debacle with little to no input from local school officials. Therefore, I feel no responsibility to stick my neck out for the Department of Education by defending their decisions. What’s happening now... in my opinion, is that parents have figured out what is being forced upon their children, and the proverbial rubber... is beginning to meet the road. However, it is not our goal to discourage nor undermine the laws of our governing body.

Therefore, our position as a school district is that we do not discourage nor encourage a parent’s decision to opt out their child. We must respect parental rights at all costs. This is the very reason I advocate for local control. Our own Tri-Valley Board of Education is in a much better position to make sound decisions for the families of our school district, than are the bureaucrats in Columbus and Washington. I say that with no disrespect toward our own legislators, whom have worked diligently behind the scenes to address the over-testing issue. The unfortunate reality is that the parents who have contacted the school district up to this point, are the parents of high achieving students who undoubtedly would do well on these assessments. We will effectively be rating school districts and individual teachers based on test scores that do not include many of their highest achieving students.

I heard a speaker make the following statement recently, and I think it is a perfect way to illustrate the issues with PARCC testing and over-testing in general:

“When you have a low birth weight baby, you don’t solve the problem by weighing the baby more often” I am quite confident that reason will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, we will respect the rights of our parents to make the best decisions for their children while simultaneously following the laws and policies of the Ohio Department of Education.

Sincerely,
Mark K. Neal
Superintendent
Tri-Valley Local School District
Things are getting heated in the real world.
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