Saturday, February 2, 2013


Why is it that anything associated with public education is ultimately reduced to an acronym?  I'm sure I'm not the first person to wonder this, but I may be the first person to blog about it.  IEP, AYP, OEA, ODE, NCTE... the list goes on and on, and now we have another: the OTES, or Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.  An acronym, in my opinion, is indicative of bureaucratic minds at work, and it appears that OTES is no exception.  If you're unfamiliar with OTES, it came about through Ohio politics (SB 316, and HB 156) and is best defined as a way to evaluate public school teachers based upon two criteria: 1) an ODE rubric for teacher performance, and 2) student growth data; after a lot of administrative work, these two elements are cast into a boiling pot and presto, ODE tells us whether we are, as educators, Accomplished, Proficient, Developing, or Ineffective.  The teacher rubric can be found here... and no one knows what the growth measure will be, except schools that use value added data, because HB 555 has mandated they use it exclusively.  The rest of us have to figure it out on our own.  The biggest pitfall of the growth measure, as I (and many others) believe, is not to confuse student achievement (single test scores) with growth (pre-assessment vs. post-assessment).  Sigh.  I feel a tangent coming on.  The state is mandating exit exams for certain core classes, but we have not seen them yet.  In English, my discipline, here's how the logic works... now imagine the state saying this, "We want you to use quality assessments to gauge your students' growth.  Stuff like essays, portfolios with standards based reflection, and socratic seminars so that we can give your kids a multiple choice test to see how good a job you did."  Absurd right?  Now, could a state mandated test work in social studies, or even math?  Maybe back when knowing how many stars are on the flag was test-worthy information to assess, but we live in an age when anyone, anywhere can access names, dates, capitals, battles, etc. from the computer in their pocket ... and therefore see the memorization as unnecessary.  In my opinion memorizing the capitals was like memorizing the Lord's Prayer: it taught an old school approach to discipline which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, like sitting on a hard wooden pew for an hour... but let's see if we can get this tangent turned back around.  The question now is, what about the Ohio Common Core's writing across the curriculum?  It essentially turns all classes into English classes, and therefore, takes away what I call the "multiple-choice" element.  I just wish the state would stop force feeding us superficial exit exams and trust us to follow the Common Core they have established.  I like the Common Core, for crying out loud.  As an English teacher how could I not?  And as for those of you out there thinking that 70% informational text applies to English, I've got a link for you.  And here's another with a sense of humor.  

I suppose the change to OTES has been a long time coming, and I have spent a lot of time learning about the system and thinking about its practical purpose.  Ultimately, I think it will make teachers that have been around for a long time a little bit more effective according to modern educational standards.  In the mean time, administrators as well as teachers are going to have to work really, really hard to prove to the general public (as well as to each other) that we know what we're doing in the classroom.  The public school classroom is a difficult environment to navigate, and modern teenagers are pretty savvy as to who knows how to challenge them, and who doesn't; if the kids "don't like you" it's probably true that you fit into this latter category.  Now, I'm not suggesting we let the teacher evaluation (a system that could potentially cause layoffs) completely up to the students, but I do think they should have some small say in it.  In the mean time, we're going to have to fill out a lot of paperwork to turn an art into a science.

OTES may make teachers a little bit more effective, but only according to the state's definition of effective teaching.    

On a possibly related side note, these pictures were taken of three peacocks that wandered into my backyard the other day.  After strutting around on my deck, they took to the roof of the shed.  I don't know about you, but I think they look pretty darned Accomplished.