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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2014

Ohio Senate OKs rerouted teacher evaluation bill


COLUMBUS — A proposal to reduce the number of state-mandated performance evaluations for well-rated public school teachers was slipped Tuesday into a fast-moving Senate bill as a way around House opposition.

The GOP-led Ohio Senate quickly approved the measure. The bill had cleared the chamber unanimously in December, but it has met resistance among some majority Ohio House Republicans.

The vote followed a surprise maneuver by the Senate Education Committee, which added most of the earlier legislation to a separate bill and it passed with all but one vote.

The proposal was prompted by educators’ concerns that Ohio’s new evaluation rules that require more classroom observation sessions, reports and conferences are misdirecting district resources.

The legislation reduces the frequency of evaluations for teachers rated “accomplished” to every three years rather than every two, and makes the reviews optional as long as the educator’s students show average or better annual academic growth. Teachers rated “skilled” would be evaluated every second year rather than annually. In interim years, at least one classroom observation and one conference would be required.

Student academic progress would account for at least 42.5 percent of a teacher’s performance rating under the new bill, a compromise between the 50 percent that some lawmakers wanted and the 35 percent advocated by others.

State Sen. Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican who sponsored the original bill, said it’s what the state wants.

“This is a significant amendment that really says to Ohioans that Columbus is listening,” he said. “These are improvements that can provide some additional flexibility in our schools while maintaining the important role that teacher evaluations play in our school system.”

Also under the proposal, school boards could elect not to evaluate teachers who have been on leave or are planning to retire, beginning with the coming school year.

Gardner said this will allow districts to devote more time and resources to helping out new teachers and those that face challenges in the classroom.

Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner said similar language would be removed from a midterm budget bill on education that is moving toward final approval at the Statehouse this week.

State Rep. Tim Derickson, a sponsor of the STEM school bill to which the evaluation provisions were added, said he’s optimistic the legislation can make it through the House in its new form.

“I just know the time that it takes many of our administrators and teachers to prepare for that,” said Derickson, a Hanover Township Republican. “And I really believe this amendment will allow more time for our teachers to teach and less time for administrators to perform the evaluations.”

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