In his Feb. 2 op-ed column, “Ohio’s school policies are working,” Greg Harris, Ohio director of StudentsFirst, misrepresents the effectiveness of current policy.
Mr. Harris urges Ohio to stay the course on its teacher evaluation system to raise student achievement. He cites progress on recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores by students in Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Tennessee after these places adopted more-rigorous teacher evaluation systems.
He fails to mention that Ohio outperforms those states and Washington. Ohio also ranked higher than those places in the 2013 Education Week Quality Counts report. Although students in D.C. did make gains on test scores, the results also show a significantly widening achievement gap between rich and poor students. This is not what we want for Ohio.
The Toledo Federation of Teachers has long been an advocate of a high-quality teacher in every classroom. More than 30 years ago, TFT started a groundbreaking peer assistance and review program to mentor teachers, help them reach their potential, and counsel the ones who do not excel in the profession.
The requirement in Ohio’s teacher evaluation system to evaluate every teacher every year — even high-performing teachers — is burdensome. A more-effective system would allow districts to focus on teachers who could improve with additional mentoring by evaluating them every year and evaluating more-skilled teachers on a two to three-year rotation, as proposed in a bill that has passed the state Senate and is before the House.
Mr. Harris also incorrectly states that two-thirds of evaluation criteria are set by school districts. This is not true for teachers who teach a tested subject. Fifty percent of their evaluation is determined by one state test. This is a higher percentage than in those states Mr. Harris held up as beacons of success.
Mr. Harris states that changing the traditional teacher pay scale to a performance scale would create a more socially just education system. Teacher pay is a worthy topic of discussion, but is by no means the path to a socially just system. The correct approach would be to close the opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect minorities and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
TFT is working to reclaim the promise of public education by partnering with the community to ensure that every child has a safe, welcoming learning environment, highly qualified and supported teachers and staff, engaging curriculum, and wraparound services. This is the focus Ohio needs.
President Toledo Federation of Teachers South Byrne Road
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