Role Of Principal Changing Under New Teacher Evaluation System

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With the implementation of the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, the role of the principal has changed. The new system has stressed out some teachers and overwhelmed some principals. Still, others say it’s an opportunity to shine a light on good teachers.

The new evaluation system, implemented for the first time this school year, requires that teachers be evaluated annually, unless they’re top-rated. Teachers are then given one of four ratings: accomplished, skilled, developing or ineffective, according to the Ohio Department of Education. As the system stands now, half of a teacher’s evaluation is based on classroom observations and the other half on how much his or her students learn in a year.

Some of that calculation could change. A bill that recently passed the Ohio Senate would decrease the amount based on student performance to 35 percent, instead of 50. The new law would also allow districts to evaluate teachers less often. “Skilled” teachers could be evaluated every other year and “accomplished” could be evaluated every three years. Principals, many of whom have seen their days consumed with the thorough process of completing the first round of evaluations, have supported this proposal.

Even with those adjustments, the system is a big change from what was in place before. Previously, a teacher may have been evaluated every few years, depending on his or her contract. Student performance didn’t have a place in the equation.

“Prior to this, principals were responsible for behavior management, making sure things function,” said Danita Glenn, principal at Trimble Middle School. “That’s no longer the case. The role now is instructional leader.”

Glenn’s job is especially unique; it was created last year specifically to help meet the demands of district-wide initiatives. Half of her time is spent as principal for students in grades 7 and 8. The other half of her position is designed to help the district administer OTES and the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Though, she admits the time-consuming initiatives leave little room for discipline.

“It’s a huge change,” she continued. “It used to be that one principal would come in for 10 minutes, you’d have a conversation and left. That was true for most people. This is a real evaluation. My job this year is to walk them through the process and make them understand. At first, it was not well received. They (the teachers) didn’t know what it was about.”

The rubric used in the evaluation system is designed to identify a teacher’s weakness and then to ultimately develop a plan to help that teacher improve, Glenn said. It’s an intensive process that takes time and effort for both teachers and evaluators to do it right. It’s also concerning.

“The teachers are concerned about the way 50 percent of an evaluation is based on a standardized test and not on what the student really has learned or what their true educational growth is,” said John Pugh, a physical education teacher at West Elementary and president of the Athens Education Association.

Still, teachers and administrators across the county have made special efforts to make it a smooth, non-threatening procedure.

Paul Grippa, principal at Athens Middle School, said he hopes some of those changes introduced by the Senate are implemented.

“The people who created the system have underestimated how much time the system is going to require,” he said. “I think it is way too burdensome.”

Grippa has 40 teachers in his building. He has to plan for pre-conferences, walk-throughs and post conferences for each of them, while still completing his other duties, which already where a full-time job.

“They didn’t take anything off the plate, but they added a whole lot,” he noted. “To me, that is irresponsible.”

Despite the burden, Glenn sees it as an opportunity.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “Good teachers really feel like somebody is noticing their skills.”