Senate OKs minor change to teacher evaluations

Gardner says measure would save some money


COLUMBUS — Before heading for the door for the holidays, the Ohio Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would loosen some of the restrictions placed on new teacher evaluations.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), said the driving factor was not saving money, but that would likely be one effect.

“There is no specific calculation for the amount of savings for taxpayers based on Senate Bill 229, but I think a modest calculation would be certainly that the savings would be in the tens of millions of dollars every year,” he said.

Currently, teachers must be fully evaluated every year. Fifty percent of their grade is based on improvement in student performance, most likely measured by standardized achievement tests. Senate Bill 229 will reduce that component to 35 percent, leaving it to the school district to decide whether it would prefer a higher threshold up to the original 50 percent.

For higher-performing teachers, those categorized as “accomplished” and “skilled” in their last evaluation, the frequency of intensive evaluations would be reduced to once every three years and two years, respectively. Instead, a mix of classroom observations, student surveys, face-to-face meetings, peer review, or other methods could be substituted to judge those teachers in the interim.

Rep. Peggy Lehner (R., Kettering) told her colleagues the bill is not a retreat from lawmakers’ support of strict evaluations.

“The scaling back from 50 percent to 35 percent of the value-added data is something that is going on across the nation,” she said. “There are very few states that have stuck to the original 50 percent.”

The bill now goes to the House, which is not expected to take it up until next year. If passed, it would take effect with the next school year.

— Jim Provance