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Originally posted April 27, 2012
Oklahoma education officials questioned on scrutiny of Tulsa model
BY ANDREA EGER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
Several members of the State Board of Education on Thursday questioned the scrutiny administrators at the Oklahoma State Department of Education have been giving to Tulsa's teacher evaluation model.
Tulsa Public Schools was seeking a minor alteration to its model, which has already been selected for use in the coming year by about 420 school districts across the state.
Jana Burk, from the TPS Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, explained that the proposed change was the removal of a standard that would have held teachers accountable for the neatness and organization of their classrooms because it was found to have very little impact on student achievement.
"Do you want to spend your time worrying about the physical organization of the classroom, or do you want to get to the heart of the matter, which is how are you teaching?" Burk asked. "Why do you go through this kind of process? Because you should want to have the best evaluation instrument possible.
"We owe it to our teachers; we owe it to our principals."
But Assistant State Superintendent Kerri White told the board she still had questions about making the change because Tulsa Public Schools had not provided "refereed research studies" to support it.
"My role is to provide you information about whether the change improves student achievement," White told the board. "I just don't feel like I have enough information."
A 2010 state law established a basic framework for teacher evaluations, including a new five-point rating system through which teachers and principals who are found to be ineffective could risk losing their jobs.
Beyond that, it specified that teachers be evaluated based on 50 percent quantitative measurements and 50 percent qualitative measurements.
Several state board members suggested that Tulsa's evaluation model was being held to a different standard than the other two models, one of which, the Danielson's Framework for Teaching, had a modification approved in February with no objections.
"Given that there seems to be more communications on this than I'm sure the Army got for the invasion of Normandy, why didn't we sit down in a room and lock the door until we figured this out?" asked state board member Lee Baxter of Lawton. "Everybody is out there hawking their models to schools in Oklahoma, and 400 or so think there is something about this one that could help their districts. I'm just not going to be a guy who is going to stand in the way of that."
He added, "This tweak is not the end of the world, and we're making this into a federal case. Why don't we just get on with this?"
Board member Bill Shdeed of Oklahoma City also questioned state administrators.
"Tulsa wants to change their model and make a tweak. We said we were going to approve all three models and review them in a year. Why can't Tulsa make a tweak to it? It's not a major tweak, unless you see something dramatically wrong with it," Shdeed said.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who has been open in her support for a model from a for-profit vendor named Robert Marzano, told the board that she and her staff were simply trying to set high standards because the developers of all three models would likely ask for modifications in the coming years.
"When we received the data and information from Tulsa, most of it was in narrative form. We simply asked for the research articles. That's all we asked for so that we could take a look at it and make a decision," she said. "It is not a minor issue. It is permanent. We need to be as careful as we can. ... We will continue to move forward and set high standards for all of these models."
Brian Hayden, a board member from Enid, said the level of research required should be relative to the nature of the change being sought.
Baxter made a motion to approve Tulsa's request, but Bill Price, another board member from Oklahoma City, offered an amendment that would also require Tulsa's request and all future ones to be offered for review to the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission.
The board voted unanimously to support Baxter's motion with Price's amendment.
After the meeting, Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said administrators from his district have responded to countless requests from state officials for information about the district's evaluation model.
"I do believe what we were asked to do was too laborious," he said. "This is high-stakes material, and we treat that in a sacred manner. More than 400 schools have selected our model. If people don't score at a certain level, their jobs could be at stake. We want our model to be perfect."