Ohio lawmakers OK revised teacher evaluation rules

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Highly rated public schoolteachers will get fewer state-mandated performance evaluations under a bill that zipped through the Ohio Legislature on Tuesday after a committee maneuver.

The proposal cleared both the state Senate and House with broad support the same day it was slipped into a fast-moving Senate bill as a way to get needed votes. The measure had cleared the GOP-led Senate in December, but it met resistance among some majority House Republicans.

Republican Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign it.

The surprise maneuver came in the Senate Education Committee, which added most of the earlier legislation to a separate bill and passed it almost unanimously. Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner said similar language was being removed from a midterm budget bill on education that’s moving toward a compromise vote this week.

The teacher evaluation changes were prompted by educators’ concerns that Ohio’s new evaluation rules requiring more classroom observation sessions, reports and conferences are misdirecting time and energy toward high-performing teachers and placing an undue burden on administrators.

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 and classroom performance would account for 42.5 percent each 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. The remaining 15 percent would be at the discretion of local districts.

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.

Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins said earlier changes to a new state teacher evaluation system championed by Kasich were stronger, but the bill passed Tuesday is a good start.

“We appreciate that lawmakers listened to the concerns of educators and are thankful for the steps taken by the Senate leadership and the tenacity of Senators Gardner and Lehner in making this progress happen,” Higgins said in a statement.

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

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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