Okla. teacher evaluation system triggers concerns in public school officials

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KINGSTON, Okla. -- Several school superintendents are firing back at a piece of state legislature regarding the way teachers are evaluated.

On Nov. 20, more than a dozen school officials met at Kingston High School for a CCOSA, or Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, District 17 meeting, where one of the more heated topic discussed was Teacher and Leader Effectiveness.

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, or TLE, was created via Oklahoma Senate Bill 246 and signed into law in May 2013.

TLE works in two parts -- qualitative and quantitative assessments.

According to SB 246, qualitative assessments make up 50 percent of the eval. Principals grade teachers based on things like classroom management, effective instruction and leadership skills.

The other part, quantitative, grades teachers by 35 percent based on standardized test scores and 15 percent on "other academic measures," the bill states.

The qualitative portion of the evaluation was set into motion in the 2012-2013 academic year. It is now fully implemented.

"We believe we're in a better place than prior to the implementation three years ago," Steven Crawford, executive director of CCOSA, said.

But now, this year, the quantitative portion of the evaluation is required, and it's causing frustration among many superintendents.

"It's being rushed and it's not very well thought out," Cliff Johnson, superintendent of Latta Public Schools, said.

"The problem is, not every teacher gets a state-mandated test, so when you look at that it really boils down to less than 20 percent of teachers have state test scores," Crawford said.

As for the other 80 percent, Crawford said recent training for school officials who will handle the evaluations did not clarify what is to be done.

SB 246 states that "the state board may adopt alternative percentages." That has Johnson concerned about an already cumbersome recruiting process.

"We're going to have difficulty finding quality math teachers, quality language arts teachers, because it's not equitable," Johnson said.

Another concern, Johnson said, is that the quantitative portion with push too much evaluation paperwork onto principals, pulling them out of classrooms. He said one of his administrators recorded 37 school days spent this year on quantitative paperwork.

In addition, there are also concerns that the quantitative portion is simply rushed, and that schools are still settling into the qualitative aspect.

"Let's step back, give those reforms a chance to work and see if they accomplish what our goals are," Johnson said. "If not, then let's look at the next step."

"If it's meaningful improvements for both teachers and kids in schools, then I think it could survive, and we'll just have to wait and see," Crawford said.

At the CCOSA meeting were Representatives Tommy Hardin of District 49 and Dustin Roberts of District 21. Johnson said he feels as if both Hardin and Roberts were receptive to the concerns addressed about the TLE, and that legislators will hopefully seek a solution to the issue in the near future.