by Brian Washington
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In Oklahoma, educators say they just got a ray of hope that will give them some room to breathe and enjoy what they love—providing students with the type of education that triggers their curiosity, imagination, and desire to learn.
That ray of hope is House Bill 2957—which was recently signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin and takes effect next year.
HB 2957 will eliminate the portion of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) evaluation system educators say was driving up stress levels and forcing quality teachers out of the profession.
“We think it (HB 2957) will stop the flight from our profession,” said Elise Robillard, a Moore Public Schools classroom veteran with 16-years of experience and National Board Certification. “This was the number one cause in my district of teachers leaving the profession. They thought it (TLE) was so unfair and impossible for them to be seen as the great professionals that they are.”
That’s because, prior to HB 2957, teachers were rated based on how their students performed on one high-stakes test. It’s called the value-added model.
“If the student scores as they were predicted to score, then the teacher is deemed to be of value to the student,” said Amy Braun, an assistant principal in Moore. “But if the student didn’t score as predicted, for whatever reason, then the teacher did not add value.”
A teacher’s value to a child’s education should not be based on this one test. In many cases there have been state Teachers of the Year that have received horrible value-added scores.
And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, educators say data obtained from the TLE test was unreliable.
“So here we are spending millions of dollars, diverting money away from our students and away from the classroom, on testing we as educators had no confidence in because the test was inadequate and deeply flawed,” said Robillard.
The good news is the state will no longer require local school districts to use high-stakes tests to evaluate educators—although some districts may still opt to do so, but at their own expense.
“I think we will only have one district in the entire state that will continue using value-added,” said Braun.
Braun is a member of The Education Association of Moore (TEAM), which represents hundreds of educators throughout the district. Robillard is TEAM’s president. TEAM worked with its state counterpart, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), to get the ball rolling on changing the TLE. However, it took more than just educators to get HB 2957 through the legislature.
“We tried to fight it (TLE) as teachers and we had no success,” said Robillard. “School administrators got on board with us early on and we made a little bit of headway with the State Department of Education but we saw no movement at the legislature. We knew to get it moved at the legislature we had to unify and involve parents and the entire community, and we were successful in doing that.”
Fifty-percent of the TLE involved qualitative evaluation measures, like principal observations. That part will remain intact. Eventually, each educator will assist in creating their own professional development plan for what they and their students need to work on.
“We’re giving autonomy back to the teachers to focus on what they believe they need to work on in their own teaching practice,” said Braun.
With this victory under their belt, Oklahoma educators say they will now turn their attention to the frequency of testing that’s occurring in the state. However, for now, they’re happy with the progress being made so far.
“Oklahoma needs this. To finally have some good policy in place that allows us to meet the needs of our students and enjoy our profession, it literally changes the moral,” said Robillard. “For sure, good people, talented educators, they will stay in the profession because of it.”