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.