And now a few words from our members…

I wanted to write a blog this week about what has gone wrong with OTES (the
Ohio Teacher Evaluation System).  I’ve read hundreds of comments that OFT
leaders have received from members and realized that there is nothing I can
say that speaks more powerfully than the voices of those who are
experiencing it.  So I’m sharing comments from members so that you can see
our education system through the eyes of these professionals.  Although this
list is long, it’s just a sampling of what members have to say on the
subject.  See the consistent themes.  Feel the anguish these teachers are
feeling.  Then ask yourself, “Is this really what we want for our children?”

“I have a strong work ethic and take pride in my job and care a lot about my students.  However, I feel more and more that my job is more about testing and compliance paperwork than actual teaching. I am so overwhelmed with completing all the “extra” that I no longer have the time or desire to create engaging and enriching lessons for my students.  Despite my best efforts, I increasingly feel like a mediocre teacher.  I’m working harder than ever before and seeing less results…it’s a defeating feeling.”

“We spend more time as teachers making sure our lesson plans follow a certain format that we no longer have the time to design creative lessons.  We are becoming the kind of teacher no one wants to be!  Someone who teaches from prewritten lessons from a textbook and only what is on the test.  No time for anything else!”

“I feel I do what I do, so I don’t mind being observed anytime.  I simply don’t like the extra paperwork/evidence that is being required for me to create and try to “defend” myself.  I much rather would spend all that time bettering the students and creating more individualized, fun, meaningful lessons to engage students rather than spending so much time on doing paperwork to defend myself and my work.”

“It is unfortunate that teachers are spending more time worrying about the appropriate way to write an SLO or having evidence of what and why something is being taught in the classroom than actually spending all that time on what is important – developing lessons and content to teach the students appropriately.  We have now been bombarded with other things we need to worry about.  If the focus of education is teaching our students effectively, why can’t we be given more time to plan for our classes and work with our students rather than jumping through the required hoops for this evaluation system?”

“I think that making teacher evaluations better is a great thought but this system is very flawed and turns teachers into secretaries.  I am spending a great deal of time collecting data and not building rapport and relationships with my students which is what makes me an effective teacher.”

“The current OTES system is taking away from my time to teach my students.  The time spent preparing for evaluations, preparing for, administering, and grading pre-assessments and eventually post-assessments has taken and will take a significant amount of time away from actually interacting with and teaching my students. Significant changes need to be made to the system for the benefit of our students.”

“It is a distraction from learning and implementing the Common Core.  I am very discouraged by the amount of work we are expected to do which takes away from other important obligations.”

“We are all just playing this “game” called education.  All it is doing is taking time away from the teacher to be doing what he/she got into this profession to do in the first place – help with ways/ideas to motivate kids to want to learn things they don’t care about.”

“This new system adds more to those already loaded with work and extra tests students don’t need.  They are so tested out, it’s not funny.  And we are losing valuable time to teach real life applications that matter.”

“I feel like with so many new mandates, I’m not getting anything done completely.  Also that my time to develop quality, appropriate and responsive lessons and interventions has disappeared.”

“Thinking of a career change…the amount of paperwork by both state and district combined has little to do with helping children succeed in the classroom.  This is not why I became a teacher.”

“The morale of our building is extremely low and thus the stress level is overly high across the board.”

“I do not know how teachers who have children at home can do their jobs with all the demands this year and be a good parent.  I am taking much more home this year, and I can’t seem to keep my head above water.  Teacher’s comments are that they need to find another profession.  It is not about the students anymore.”

“Teaching has become one of the most stressful jobs in the nation.”

“I feel as though I am playing catch up every day.”

“The expectations at this time are totally unreasonable.”

“There is extreme high stress in our jobs and it is not improving.  There is not enough time in our day to complete everything and do it well.  I don’t know about other people, but I’m tired of working through lunch and at home!!!  Stop the madness!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“I no longer have a social life, and I am seriously considering a career change.”

“I haven’t felt prepared to teach a day yet.”

“We are stressed because gone are the days when we actually build relationships and get to know each child as a learner and human being since we feel compelled to meet so many deadlines and close achievement although we have too many initiatives in order to do anything successfully.”

“While I have spent huge amounts of time preparing, this preparation is in no way enhancing my teaching.  In fact, the preparation, designed to show the principal the minutia of my thought process as I present a lesson, detracts from the time I can spend planning presentations/discovery that should haapen while students are learning.”

“So much time is spent on district and state mandated assessments and data collection that really has very little to do with instructing students.  I feel cheated out of valuable time to plan effective lessons that have real impact on student progress.”

“What ultimately happens is that papers get graded and more time is spent on items that are not directly related to the ongoing achievement of my students.”

“The stress is having complete accountability without any authority.  I am concerned with the loss of instructional time and planning time.  If I am to be held solely accountable for student growth, then I need to be able to teach and plan for teaching.  Our instructional time with students is shrinking and yet our accountability grows.  With the decrease in planning time and increase of workload done at home, most teachers are working through every evening and weekend…I know I am. I don’t know of one single teacher who is not trying to get out of teaching.”

“I find myself planning, creating, and buying more than in other years.  I spend about eight hours on Saturday and Sunday preparing for the week.”

“Need more time. Time. Time. Working through lunch every day.”

The amount of assessments combined with the paperwork is significantly impacting time to prepare rigorous, relevant, and creative lesson plans.”

“This year is one of the most stressful work years of my 16-year career.”

“Testing demands are the most stressful and time consuming.  It takes away from real learning.”

“I have been teaching and testing for 13 years and this year is by far the hardest and most stressful.  The amount of paperwork, forms, assessments, and procedures is overwhelming.  Most of the things I am being required to do are not about my students and their education but rather about completing forms for a process for someone to review.”

“I use to love being a teacher!  I don’t feel like I get to do it much anymore.”

“My entire evenings, weekends, and breaks are consumed with work.  There is no end to all the work!”

“Here’s how I feel, ‘Please take something off the plate for every three things that are added!!!’ “

“I feel like I have the paperwork demands of a corporate job on top of being a teacher.  Time to prep the material and supplies is lost to meetings and paperwork.”

“I work a 12-14 hour day Mon-Fri and work 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday.”

“High stress leads to lower productivity and low morale.  Each year, more and more is being asked to accomplish with little to no time provided to complete what is being asked.  It is impossible to keep taking from an individual professionally with an expectation they also sacrifice themselves personally. “

The themes are consistent:

  1. Increased paperwork is taking away from time to plan quality lessons.
  2. Increased testing is taking away from quality instructional time.
  3. Increased mandates are creating stressful working environments that are causing low morale.
  4. Increased workload is preventing teachers from building the types of relationships with students that lead better learning.

This blog does not even address all the other concerns around OTES – too much emphasis on student growth measures, using Value-Added to evaluate teachers rather than to inform instruction, not enough capacity to do the evaluations in a meaningful way, lack of time leading to evaluations being done at compliance level instead of at a level that shapes professional growth, evaluators not being proctored when taking credentialing exam, and the list goes on.

But the most concerning part to me is that I am confident that the teachers who made these comments are the teachers we want and need in the system.  They care.  They want to teach children.  They strive for success.  They do everything they are asked to do at a top-notch level.  But the system is beating them down and keeping them from doing what they do best – teach.  And when we beat these teachers down, when we burden them with so much extraneous work that does nothing to help the students, then it is the students who lose.

Isn’t it time we listen to these professionals?

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9 Responses to And now a few words from our members…

  1. Chris says:

    The two doctor,s that did the McREL meta study of best practices in teaching warned administrators that not all best practices could be observed all at once in any one given visit or observation.
    The Ohio evaluation is based on this. In Cleveland, so is our pay. With charters taking the cream of the crop and sending us back behavior problems. It is a recipe for failure.
    This is about tax dollars.

    • When I visited Finland, one of the best education systems in the world, every educator we talked with was offended by the notion of evaluations in the way that we use them. And they scoff at our overuse of testing. They believe you hire good professionals, give them the supports they need, then let them do their jobs. I believe in having a strong evaluation system that allows for educators to reflect on their practice and to continually grow, but obviously there are a lot of flaws in the implementation of the system we are using now.

  2. Barb Kolling says:

    I am a 34year veteran teacher. The past 2 years I have worked with the most committed,knowledgeable, caring group of teachers. Because of OTES, they are leaving the profession. What an unimaginable loss for our students! I am deeply saddened.

    • I literally had tears in my eyes when I finished reading the comments that had been sent to me. I recently talked with a Kindergarten teacher in my home district who has been teaching about twenty-five years. She taught my children. She is excellent! She told me that she has cried more this year than she has ever cried. This should not be happening!

  3. Ima Caring Teacher says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the fine people above. I have been teaching for over twenty years in special education. I love teaching my students, but as mentioned above, there are so many things that we have to do that take away from actual teaching time. The one thing I just don’t understand about the people making decisions for us is the logic being employed by them. You cannot compare a previous group of students with a current group. It is impossible to believe that each class following a class has the same dynamics that would lead to valid data. We are talking about human minds, each is completely different from the next, they are not Honda Civics. How in the world can you compare students with disabilities from one year to the next? The madness of testing is consuming everyone and not in a good and effective manner. The key to equalizing the students is to ensure that all students have similar home environments, food, clothing, friends, experiences, finances, and most importantly, love and time from their parents. If these cannot be equal, then how can we expect everyone to turn out the same? The gap that we have to keep an eye out for is the have’s and the have nots. The first three years of a child’s life is the real factor in how our children advance in life. Notice that this is before they start school. There is no better career in the world, but people who have no true understanding continue to develop more punishments in the attempts to solve problems. Politicians rarely fix anything and have no real accountability to anyone. If they were micromanaged like we are, their data would be extremely low. There is a great hypocrisy in this country. I served in the military in wartime. I am grateful that I had the chance to do that. All I want to do is to continue my public service helping students to learn to read, do math, and become contributing citizens. Educational decisions need to be made by educators, not by people who have never walked a day in our shoes. God Bless all our great teachers, all our wonderful students, and all our caring parents. Please let us meet the true needs of all our children!

    • Thanks for all you have done for our students and our country. It is still astounding to me that the people who make our education policies are not educators. It is actually beyond comprehension. And it is so disrespectful to not include the voices of professionals in these policymaking decisions. We have to continue to make our voices heard.

  4. alanna says:

    more and more the corporate climate is infecting education. as Paolo Friere and many others believe, an educated populace is harder to bamboozle. Could be why there is an attempt to dismantle public education-the great liberator!

  5. Regan Butler says:

    Listen to the teachers, listen to the kids who are unmotivated learners because of the new system, listen to the parents who see the stress of the never ending tests and stop this foolishness. I’ve got kids from 30 to 13 and I know what I’m talking about I know about enriched learning environments and student led learning. The changes to education have deeply affected the kids and are actually putting limitations on what they are exposed to in the classroom because teachers don’t have time for student led learning. Gone are the fun collaboration projects and other hands on learning activities to be replaced by pages and pages and pages of worksheets. It has to stop. I’ve worked in a 7-12 school for 13 years and I can’t believe the unions put up with this.

  6. Richele O'Connor says:

    Here is another unintended consequence: a teacher told me that teachers are no longer collaborating as they want to keep their good ideas to themselves for fear of compromising their evaluation!

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