New evaluation standards mandate all Olentangy teachers be observed multiple times every year.

New evaluation standards mandate all Olentangy teachers be observed multiple times every year.

At its Feb. 25 meeting, the Olentangy school board approved a revision to teacher contracts to align evaluation procedures with state law. The contracts, approved last spring, included a memorandum of understanding that the evaluation process would change after Ohio legislators finalized a procedure.

Job performance will be evaluated twice each year by a building administrator based on an updated rubric. Teachers also will be subjected to one informal "walk-through" observation session by their building's principal.

Teachers can appeal evaluations up to the level of the superintendent if they feel a review was conducted unfairly.

Previously, the number and frequency of evaluations varied based on each teacher's contract; some teachers were observed only once each year.

In addition to the frequency of observations, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jack Fette added the new rubric places a greater focus on testing to track student progress.

"It looks at how teachers use formal assessments to measure student achievement. That was not as explicit in our current tools," Fette said.

The tweaks to evaluation procedures originally were conceived as a provision of the federal Race to the Top program, which provides federal stimulus money to districts that implement certain education reforms to boost academic success. Later, they were mandated by Ohio House Bill 555.

"Our staff members want to be at the front of this whole piece and work diligently to continue to be the best," said Superintendent Wade Lucas.

The adopted contract revision states the evaluations will be used both to assist teachers in improving instruction, and to provide districts with information in making employment decisions.

If a teacher shows insufficiency during observation, principals will mandate an improvement plan.

From that point, their progress can be used to make employment decisions, Fette said. That's no different than under the old evaluation process.

Also at their Feb. 25 meeting, board members reviewed the district's latest state report card and looked ahead to an overhaul of the state's grading system next year.

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education finalized report cards for all districts for the 2011-12 school year. The reports originally were scheduled for release in August, but were delayed when several large districts, including Columbus City Schools, were accused of manipulating attendance data to boost their scores.

Preliminary results released in October indicated Olentangy would be awarded its highest Performance Index score ever of 107.3 and an overall rating of "excellent with distinction." The score and rating held up in the final results.

Next year, the state will ditch its current rating system to adopt an A-F letter-grade scale for districts -- along with new, harsher standards.

Projections indicate Olentangy will be just on the cusp of earning an "A" grade this year; only districts that earn a score of 108 or higher will earn the top grade under the new system.

Olentangy is far from the only district that could see a possible rating downgrade under the new system. Only 17 of Ohio's 609 public school districts would have earned an A in 2011 if the new standards had been in place, and just one in central Ohio: Granville schools.

Regardless, Lucas said he's hopeful.

"One thing to tell students and staff members is that you've proven over the years that on a consistent basis you have performed at the top at the state level," Lucas said.

"We can't control what constitutes an A, B, C, D or F, but we can control the type of quality instruction we provide on a daily basis, and as long as we control that, we're going to be in great shape."