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Bill backs CMSD's approach to teacher evaluations

CMSD News Bureau
Monday, 12/16/13
Proposed state legislation would give administrators across the state more flexibility in evaluating teachers, mirroring an approach already adopted by CMSD.
Under Senate Bill 229 (read the text), proposed by Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, measures of student academic growth in a year would account for 35 percent of teacher's evaluation instead of 50 percent. The 15 percent freed up by the change would be based on measures chosen by the districts.
The Cleveland Plan, a special state-approved reform plan, provides CMSD with leeway in evaluating teachers.
In most cases, the District already gives the 35 percent weight to growth measured by state achievement tests or other assessments.  The success that students have in reaching objectives set by the teacher counts for 15 percent. In subjects like art that are not measured by achievement tests, learning objectives count for 50 percent.
The District developed the evaluation formula in collaboration with the Cleveland Teachers Union and with the support of national experts. The 35-percent figure was chosen because research on the validity of using such data to make high-level decisions about teacher effectiveness is still emerging, said Christine Fowler-Mack, chief portfolio officer.
"We cared a lot that our system was reliable and fair," she said. "It's necessary to have multiple pieces of information to come to a comprehensive view of teacher effectiveness."
Fowler-Mack and other staff, including representatives of the teachers union, are leading work on the District's Teachers Development and Evaluation System. TDES is a comprehensive system that seeks to replace cursory or arbitrary evaluations with reviews based on self-reflection, observation, feedback and a plan for growth
Gardner, a former high school teacher, said in an interview that basing 35 percent of a teacher's evaluation on growth "reflects national norms." 
Senate Bill 229 also would reduce the amount of time that administrators in Cleveland and other districts must spend formally monitoring and meeting with teachers who have clearly demonstrated their effectiveness. Those who achieve the state's top ranking of "accomplished" would be formally reviewed every three years instead of annually and teachers who rank as "skilled" would be formally evaluated every other year. 
Fowler-Mack said CMSD supports the change because it would free administrators to spend more time working with teachers who are considered "developing" or "ineffective." She said the higher performing teachers would still be held accountable through the regular review of their data and informal interactions.
"They would still be expected to plan well, to assess in the classroom, to build relationships with the students," she said. "Their data would still be captured, they would still be measured in their practice."
Gardner said shifting attention to where it's most needed could save districts money.
"The current process is time-intensive and costly," he said. "We simply tried to find balance, and I think we achieved that."
The Senate voted unanimously Dec. 6 to approve the legislation, which has moved to the House.