Evaluating new teachers has always been the job of school districts in Ohio, but under a plan adopted earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Education is getting in on the action.
Starting in 2003 new teachers will be observed, interviewed, and evaluated on the job by assessors appointed by the state to determine whether they should receive a professional Ohio teaching license.
It won't determine whether they keep their job - that still will be determined by local districts - but it will determine whether they get a license in Ohio.
Experts believe it will improve the quality of teaching.
“As educators I think we are changing the way things are being done, and I think it is getting a little tougher,” said Mary Ann Nowacki, a math teacher at Whitmer High School in Toledo and one of about 800 assessors trained to evaluate new teachers. “Our standards are changing, as well they should.”
Under the new policy, which is still being field-tested, entry-year teachers will be rated in four “domains” of teacher expertise:
If they can't pass the evaluation during the first two years, they would have to go back to school, get a new recommendation from the dean of their education college, and try again.
Dr. Bob Hite, director of the Center for the Teaching Profession, said Ohio is the first to use the performance-based Praxis III, developed by Educational Testing Service, of Princeton, N.J., to determine whether teachers get their professional license.
“The Praxis is the standard at this time because there's really no other national instrument,” Dr. Hite said. “I think our state board has really pushed the whole issue of performance-based evaluation, not just a paper-and-pencil test.
“It's one more step toward making sure there's a competent, caring, and qualified teacher in every classroom,” Dr. Hite said.
Like 30 other states, Ohio requires that teacher education majors pass a written test to be issued a provisional teaching license.
However, no state has implemented fully the performance-based Praxis III and, until now, no state has designated the score that a teacher must obtain in order to pass the test, the Department of Education said.
The passing score determined by the state board of education on Dec. 12 is 38 out of 57 possible points. The board expects 80 to 90 per cent of candidates to pass.
Amy Colegrove, a fifth and sixth grade social studies teacher at Gorham-Fayette Elementary School in Fulton County, voluntarily went through one of the evaluations a few weeks ago.
It involved a pre-observation interview of about 40 minutes, observation of one class period, and a post-observation interview, she said.
“It covers every single thing about your teaching,” Miss Colegrove, a recent graduate of Defiance College, said. Miss Colegrove hasn't received the results yet, but is confident she met the standards.
In addition to passing the test, called the Praxis III, new teachers will be provided with a mentor to help them in their first year.
Mrs. Nowacki said the program is valuable because it involves teachers evaluating other teachers. She noted that the school district would still decide whether to continue employing a teacher; Praxis III determines whether the teacher qualifies for a license.
Jacquelyn O'Bryant, another local assessor, who teaches French at Start High School in Toledo, said the evaluations provide a baseline for minimum teacher performance.
“It's a very extensive evaluation form. I don't think it's as threatening as it sounds,” she said. “The money is what scares people from teaching.”
She said the evaluations would boost the profession and, in time, the salaries paid to teachers.
Eight-hundred teachers have been trained as Praxis III assessors. Ultimately about 1,200 will be employed, Dr. Hite said. He said the program is budgeted to cost the state $22.4 million the year after next, when 6,000 entry-year teachers will be evaluated.
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