Monday, August 13, 2012

The Economics of Happiness

"This film connects the dots between climate chaos, economic meltdown, and our own personal suffering--stress, loneliness, and depression. It presents the localization movement as a systemic alternative to corporate globalization, as well as a strategy that brings community and meaning to our lives." (Joanna Macy, author World as Lover, World as Self)"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The New Ohio Teacher Evaluation System

As a result of Ohio House Bill 153, Ohio's budget, the legislature has mandated new standards for teacher evaluations. These new mandates apply to both Race to the Top districts and districts that did not receive Race to the Top funds. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was given the task of developing the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES pronounced [ō-tĕs]). Ohio Senate Bill 316, the Mid-Budget Review made some changes to these requirements, so the requirements have continued to change. Despite these changes, there is a framework that has emerged as the basic structure for the system. Here is a link to Frequently Asked Questions about OTES from ODE: FAQs

ODE has recently released some videos on YouTube to help educate people about Ohio's new Teacher Evaluation System. These videos have been embedded below.

Ohio's Teacher Evaluation System-What's Changing?

Evaluation of Teacher Performance-How Will This Work?

 Evaluation of Student Growth Measures-How Will This Work?

In this video he does not talk a lot about the locally determined measures of student growth, which will be the measures used for the majority of teachers. The process that ODE has developed for developing these is known as Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), which he mentions in the video but does not explain. Here is a link to more information about Student Learning Objectives from the Symposium on Teacher Evaluations that ODE provided on May 25, 2012:
Here is a link to brief explanation of the Student Learning Objective process from ODE: Student Learning Objectives
Here is a link to the template checklist for writing Student Learning Objectives: SLO Checklist

Teacher Ratings -How Will They Be Used?

In this video he does not talk a lot about performance pay or employment decisions, which to many people are the most important topics related to teacher evaluations in Ohio. Ohio HB 153 requires that teachers who are rated "Accomplished" be paid more than teachers who are rated "Proficient." Also, any teacher rated "Ineffective" for two out of three years may not be renewed. Local districts will be developing these new performance pay systems over the next couple of years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ohio Educators Cite Challenges For Teacher Evaluation System

A Gongwer news report from February 14, 2012 via Join the Future, a report detailing the ongoing challenges developing a workable evaluation system. Capacity, technical challenges, and a lot of unknowns continue to stress the implementation.

Teachers and administrators who have been testing the state's proposed teacher evaluation system voiced consensus Monday on the aspects of the program they both support and see as problem areas.

Speaking before the State Board of Education's Capacity Committee, the educators from six schools participating in the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System pilot project, some in the midst of testing the approach for the second year, shared their experiences with the model.

The Department of Education plans to use the feedback supplied to tweak OTES, which must be implemented in Race to the Top-participating schools by July and for all other schools by July 2013.

Committee Chairman Tom Gunlock said he hopes the resulting system to grade teacher performance will be known as the best in the country. Although OTES offers a statewide model, the approach will be customized in each district.

The concept of grading and eventually basing salary and retention decisions on performance has been met with apprehension by teachers who are not necessarily keen on being judged in part on how much their students learn in one year.

"The goal of the state framework and locally developed evaluation system is not to beat up on teachers," Mr. Gunlock said, adding it is meant to help teachers improve their work. "We simply cannot allow a child to lose a year's worth of learning."

The meeting participants said they are hearing concerns from participating teachers about use of the evaluation in part because students will soon switch to being tested on new standards. In the meantime, educators are trying to move to the new curricula while still preparing pupils for the current exams.

They said teachers are also uneasy about how student growth will be calculated in untested subjects and grades because currently the value-added growth measure can only be determined for reading and math grades 4-8.

Heather Pierce, music teacher at Valley Middle School, said she has attempted to conduct evaluations that would allow her to compare how her students performed at the start of the year versus the end.

"The amount of class time that it is taking is tremendous," she said. "If I have to take four class periods in assessments over the course of the year, that's four major lessons my kids are losing."

She said students in her middle school choir class are "terrified" of her assessment approach of videotaping students singing in small groups. "I'm being asked to assess a class that is totally group oriented."

Another issue with the student growth measure is that current value-added results are available too late for timely use, Dayton Early College Academy Principal David Taylor said.

"If we're looking at actually putting that in a teacher's evaluation for that year, we won't get the results until the next year ... so we're going to end up using a year old data to evaluate a teacher or we simply are going to have to get the results earlier," he said.

James Herrholtz, ODE Associate Superintendent of Learning, said the department hopes to have some answers to the value-added questions by spring or early summer.

"The fear of the unknown is what we're up against, and the more that we can add clarity in that area and diffuse some of those fears, I think will add some credibility to the process," he said.

He also raised issue with the "overwhelming" number of teacher observations required as part of the evaluation. "We're all kind of pressed for time, and it's a daunting task to have to do that many observations."

Lion of Judah Academy Principal Katrina Joyner-Watts also expressed trouble with the time commitment.

"With the small staff and the small schools such as myself, our school is challenging to complete the evaluation process because the administrators usually do not have the manpower to cover the administrative duties while the principal is evaluating," she said, adding that principals themselves have to be evaluated under the Ohio Principal Evaluation System.

Katie Hofmann, lead teacher at the Office of Innovations in Cincinnati Public Schools, said she also sees a capacity issue when it comes to implementing much of the system.

"I see that with budgets being cut dramatically, principals or evaluators are going to have to be trained so we have a common understand and a common language that we're using across the state, so that's going to be one more thing on our administrators," she said.

"The goal-setting process, for it to be rigorous and really focus teachers on where they need to go, is going to take a tremendous amount of time. I have concerns that our administrators are not experts in each and every content area."

Valley Middle School Principal Marc Kreischer said he likes that accomplished teachers are permitted to act as evaluators in subject areas where a principal's expertise might not be as great. That approach brings with it problems, however.

"When it comes to making decisions on employment purposes, staff members have a difficult time in feeling comfortable with a fellow staff member doing their evaluation, but also that other staff member that's going to be asked to do so," he said. "I believe personally that the focus is teacher growth, but in a teacher's eyes it's still about the evaluation, it's still about the employment, so how we communicate that is extremely important."

Chester Starks, assistant executive superintendent at Lion of Judah Academy, joined others in saying the term "evaluation" itself brings with it a judgmental stigma that makes teachers uncomfortable. He suggested changing the "E" in OTES to mean something like "efficacy" instead to emphasize that the system is about improving teacher performance.

Ms. Joyner-Watts said one of her teachers resigned after two OTES reviews to go back to college, which might be related to not living up to perceived expectations. "We're not sure exactly if that's the case but that's a challenge that we have."

Board member Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) asked if the original apprehension over evaluations in general has dissipated among those involved.

Mr. Kreischer said his teachers are more open to it, but the concept of an evaluation for employment purposes they have "a big issue with" overall. "The way it's communicated is going to be very important."

Ms. Hofmann said when her school offered additional compensation to teachers who meet their goals, 22 of the 25 eligible to participate stepped forward. Other schools; however, have not been as comfortable with the concept.

"I think it's a matter of building the trust at the school level with the administrator," she said. "I've seen some real positive results of this in Cincinnati."

The teachers and principals were generally on the same page with aspects of the pilot system they support. Among them are:

Requiring teachers to conduct a self-evaluation and set goals. "I liked that their goals were based on evidence, and a lot of times if we have that evidence right in front of us, it's a lot easier to see what decisions we should make and not necessarily go with our gut instinct," Van Wert Middle School teacher Jen Ainsworth said.
Having administrators conduct a pre-assessment, which Ms. Pierce said is "essential."
Pre- and post-evaluation conferences between the teacher and evaluator. "It encourages the teacher to do the most talking," Mr. Kreischer said.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Who is protecting Ohioans in the fracking debate?

Who is protecting Ohioans in the fracking debate?

CLEVELAND -- Natural gas and oil companies are buying up big tracts of Ohio land on top of natural gas and oil-rich shale.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Children See, Children Do

This ad might be disturbing to some viewers, but it graphically illustrates how children imitate the behaviors that they see being modeled.

Take A Stand Against Bullying

Take a stand against negative behavior. Be the change.

Words Hurt-Be the Change

You Can't Take It Back

If you are posting anywhere on the internet, be careful what you post. Once you post, it is out of your control.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Battelle For Kids To Double Value-Added Teacher Reports This Year

This report from Gongwer News Service was shared by Join the Future. This information will be interesting to teachers in Ohio as the state and districts develop their new teacher evaluation systems.

The report mentions the increased costs to districts that will incurred as Race to the Top Districts in the state comply with the new requirements for teacher evaluations tied to measures of student growth. The report also mentions the many challenges of developing valid and reliable measures of student growth for classes without a standardized test. Many researchers also continue to question the reliability and validity of the value-added measures that do exist--such as those being sold by Battelle for Kids.

"Reports on how student learning has grown under a teacher's tutelage will be provided to 60% of eligible educators this year, developers said recently.

The Department of Education has contracted with Battelle for Kids to work with Ohio schools on implementing teacher reports on how much growth their students show during the course of the year. The State Controlling Board released $2.9 million in Race to the Top money to the organization last April to facilitate the work.

Thirty percent of reading and math teachers covering grades four through eight received reports in the 2010-11 school year and that proportion is planned to double for the current year, Battelle for Kids Senior Director of Research and Innovation Mary Peters said. By 2014 all teachers in those grades and subject areas will receive the feedback.

"The piece that value added provides is the opportunity to be looking at teachers' contribution specifically to student outcomes," she said.

Ms. Peters, along with her team of a dozen professional developers, technology staff, and communications personnel, have been training regional value added leaders to prepare the new set of teachers to be incorporated into the evaluation system.

The next step is to prime principals on how to use the reports, and in May the team will train individuals in a roster verification system that ensures teachers get reliable reports, she said.

"Those two things together then help us bring capacity so that these new 30% of districts that heretofore have never participated in teacher-level value-added reports will be prepared not only on the data side but also with tools and strategies that they can use to help their teachers understand these reports," Ms. Peters said.

"It's equally important that not only are these measures available but that school leaders know how to use this information not in a gotcha kind of way but in a school improvement, teacher improvement kind of way."

The reports use value-added data that is calculated to determine whether a student achieves one year's worth of growth or more or less than that. Because the current value-added measure relies on data from statewide assessments, it can only be computed for reading and math education in grades 4-8.

The state budget (HB 153) requires all eligible teachers to be receiving reports on student growth by the 2013-14 school year. The information is to be tied into teacher evaluations that will eventually be linked to performance pay.

"I think Battelle for Kids feels very strongly that multiple measures are really an important feature of this new teacher evaluation system," Ms. Peters said. "And of course we strongly endorse the idea of using value added as part of that group of multiple measures."

Battelle for Kids, however, is also involved with those districts that on their own want to do more. "Our work is also to provide an opportunity for districts who want to go beyond grades 4 through 8 reading and math," Ms. Peters said.

Developing the technique for calculating student growth in other subjects is done at a cost to districts, but ODE recently issued a "mini-grant" that provides opportunity to build capacity around "extended testing and reporting," she said.

"The idea is to use the most reliable and valid measures that we have on the student growth side. So if in fact we can help by extending the value-added reporting beyond grades 4 through 8 reading and math, that obviously is a preferable option," Ms. Peters said.

"In areas where there are no state tests and where districts need to use local measures, you start getting down into issues around who pays for those measures, how are those measures administered, do they provide adequate information for the purposes of teacher evaluation, or are they even appropriate to use to create a growth measure from it."

About 100 districts currently do extended testing in a variety of areas and the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative is working to use value-added information for evaluations and compensation decisions, she said. "Really the idea is to be able to support those districts that want, for example value-added information at the high school level."

Battelle for Kids and its network of more than 90 facilitators around the state have so far trained more than 1,200 educators from 68% of districts along with nearly 100 community school buildings. Nearly 10,000 online value-added courses have been completed since June, Ms. Peters said.

"In short order it's a lot of training, it's a lot of work and I think a lot of impact," she said. "That's our work, to make sure that teachers and school leaders are using this information well and that they are clear, they understand it."

She said 84% of surveyed participants said they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt comfortable using the value added information reports."

Source: Gongwer News Service via Join the Future

Monday, January 16, 2012

100 Years of History in 10 Minutes

This is a video compilation of 100 years of history in 10 minutes courtesy of Tom Whitby.