The new method of evaluating teachers is time-consuming and stressful, and the advantages might not outweigh the disadvantages.
Those were a few of the conclusions drawn from a two-hour discussion of the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System during the Worthington Board of Education meeting Monday night, June 23.
A teacher and principal from Slate Hill Elementary School, Worthingway Middle School and Thomas Worthington High School told the board about their experiences with the system.
This past school year was the first for OTES, a complex rating system that takes principals out of their offices and into classrooms as they evaluate each teacher based on a series of interviews, pre- and post-tests for students and classroom observations.
At the end of the school year, each of the district's 750 teachers end up with a rating of accomplished, skilled, developing or ineffective.
Worthingway principal Nathan Kellenberger said he spent about 300 hours evaluating teachers this year. That meant, among other things, that he was not in the hallways or the lunchroom as much as he had been in previous years.
Likewise, Slate Hill principal Ken Pease said he spent hundreds of hours evaluating teachers.
One day, he heard a teacher say he was never around. "To hear that comment was very hard," he said.
Thomas Worthington assistant principal Rebecca Chapman said time management has become her greatest challenge. It is difficult to spend time in the classroom and to manage the day-to-day duties of her position, she said. "I felt I was neglecting students a little bit," she said.
Assistant Superintendent Trent Bowers said the time needed to meet the new state mandate significantly has changed principals' jobs.
On the positive side, Kellenberger said, it was good to have conversations with his staff members and to spend time in the classroom.
Jerry Obney, Thomas Worthington biology teacher, said the process forced him to be more reflective about his teaching skills.
"The value is in the conversations, having a principal in my classroom and then having a conversation about it," he said.
Worthingway Spanish teacher Keri Newcomb said the process made her a better teacher, though she had misgivings about some of the required procedures.
Each teacher must begin the year by giving each student a test to measure his or her grasp of the subject. The same test is given at the end of the year and is used to help evaluate the teacher's effectiveness.
Newcomb said she didn't like giving a pre-test to seventh-graders, expecting failure.
"I had to give the test, and I am morally opposed to it," she said.
Board member Charlie Wilson agreed. The retired law-school professor said law schools are prohibited from giving tests on anything that has not been covered.
"To me, it is immoral; it is child abuse," he said.
Pre-tests could be effective, board member Sam Shim said. How else would a kindergarten teacher know which entering students are reading at a second-grade level and which couldn't tell the front from the back of a book? he said.
Giving the tests to kindergartners can be time consuming because each test must be given individually, Slate Hill kindergarten teacher Brittany Bryan said. She and other teachers compiled evaluation binders filled with evidence of their accomplishments throughout the year. Principals may review the evidence during meetings. Binders are not commonly used in middle and high schools, according to those who spoke.
Bowers said the district's OTES team would meet in August to discuss changes coming in the next year. State legislators recently passed amendments to the bill that state accomplished or skilled teachers need not be evaluated each year but must be observed.
"We don't know what that means," Bowers said.