New Oregon Teacher Rating System Paints with Broad Brush

The state of Oregon has released its new teacher evaluation system which will come into place in the 2014-2015 school year. The ranking system will designate teachers into one of four categories, according to Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian:

  • Does Not Meet Performance Standards
  • Partially Meets Performance Standards
  • Meets Performance Standards
  • Exceeds Performance Standards
The state’s department of education expects roughly two-thirds of current teachers to fall into the ‘Meets Performance Standards’ category, with 15-20% falling into ‘Exceeds’ or ‘Partially Meets’ – leaving about 2% in the lowest tier.
In 2011, US President Barack Obama charged all 50 states to revamp their existing teacher evaluation systems. Oregon was one of the last to do so, despite overt pressure from the federal government. Oregon released its plan on April 21, 2014, just nine days short of the federal-mandated deadline.
The state administered a lengthy press release explaining its new system:

Our new system is unique in its thoroughness, and it combines three important components: professional practice (the work educators do each day), professional responsibility (the parts of our work that are about seeking continued growth, communication, and collaboration with colleagues), and a growth measure of student learning over time.

The ratings will neither cause a teacher to receive a bonus nor be fired, according to Oregon Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton:

Teachers in most districts won’t be paid bonuses or fired based on their evaluation rating. But the performance ratings will factor into which teachers schools decide to retain, Saxton said.

The ratings will also be used to determine what kind of teacher training and how much professional freedom teachers get, he said. Teachers with top-tier professional practices and strong student achievement growth will get to decide those things for themselves.

The federal government’s view of Oregon taking a long time to develop a plan led to the state being in jeopardy of resuming the No Child Left Behind plan. When he took over as deputy superintendent in 2012, Saxton told the feds a plan would be in place by the summer of 2013, but then told them in the spring of 2013 that the state needed more time.
Erin Whitlock, a former special education teacher in the state who now works for the Oregon Education Association, lauded the new plan as fair for educators and not so reliant on test scores, as previous incarnations of ratings and those in other states have been.

 She thinks Oregon has done “an amazing job” of designing a system that will help teachers get an accurate look at their performance in a way that will allow them to improve, not feel boxed in by a formula that tells them they are great or poor, but not why.

“Oregon’s approach allows educators the opportunity to view their practice,” she said. “Other states went with routes that did not.”

06 11, 2014
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