Quolke’s Corner #158 TDES Nightmares Continue

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Quolke’s Corner #158

TDES Nightmares Continue

The Teacher Development and Evaluation System (TDES), a foundation of our Collective Bargaining Agreement, a cornerstone of our Race to the Top Grant, a collaborative process for the better part of the past 4 years, and one of the few things that seemed to be moving forward in the District, has been dealt a huge blow.

By now, many CTU members have received notification from the state regarding their Student Growth Measures (SGMs).  This notification came after the district input the data by hand, submitting to the state on Thursday, May 29 instead of the agreed upon date of Friday, May 23.  The TDES Steering Committee had previously set the May 23rd date so that members would have four full school days to access their data and verify its accuracy.  The district waited until Thursday, May 29, giving teachers only one day—the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL—to make sure that 50% of their evaluations were correct.  To access teacher’s SLO data, one has to be logged onto a district computer.  This created a huge problem for teachers who were missing data or didn’t agree with the numbers. 

From the information were have received, we think much of the data has been incorrectly submitted.    The complexity of the problems and how multiple sub groups are affected has been an ongoing discussion with the district leading up to the state reporting deadline of June 13th, in which the ODE locks the system.

Some examples of the problems are:

Any Category A or B teachers who didn’t have Value-added data or vendor assessment data were moved to Category C and expected to write two SLOs, each counting for 25% of their Effective Rating even though they wrote only one SLO thinking it would only be 15% of their Rating.  This happened if there wasn’t an assessment given or there were fewer than 6 students.  Their system cannot distinguish this difference. 

There were technical issues that occurred so pretest or posttest scores couldn’t be seen and were not logged into the system.  Teachers were being defaulted to a “1”, or “Below Met”, on their growth data if that data was missing, even though the district couldn’t determine a reason.

Part of the problem of the missing assessment data is that teachers weren’t assigned to classes in buildings.  The district sent out a roster verification to principals so that they could make sure all teachers were assigned to the correct classes in their buildings.  Only about half of the principals did this and returned the information to the district.

The TDES Steering Committee agreed on October 15 to have missing growth data revert to TDES observational data.  The next week, the district sent this out in an SLO Q & A handbook, and then trained the SLO school teams on this policy in November.  For the last week, CEO Gordon has supported his staff’s assertion that the Steering Committee discussed, but never agreed to, this policy.  The documents, however, don’t lie.

The district has stated that they believe TDES observational scores are too high.  It seems that even when the data is staring them in the face, based on evidence from their principals, they refuse to believe what WE have known all along—we have many, many excellent teachers in Cleveland!  Now, rather than acknowledge and applaud the good work teachers do every day, the district is attempting to manipulate Student Growth Measures, using them as a weight to artificially pull teachers’ effectiveness ratings down.

Since this debacle has come to light, we have been attempting to work with the district to resolve these problems and find a solution that doesn’t harm our members.  We have had phone conferences (on Memorial Day, no less) and face-to-face meetings with the district and our respective legal counsels to try and fix what has been broken.  Part of the problem is the State of Ohio’s (in reality…Republican law makers’ and the governor’s) over infatuation with testing and using students’ test scores to evaluate teachers and tie it to compensation.  But a considerable part of the problem is with the district.  I can only speculate why I think the district is doing this, but I don’t think it takes a degree in rocket science to see why the district would work so hard to get this so wrong:  lowering evaluation ratings saves the district money.  Slowing the process of earning achievement credits, slows the process of moving through our Diff Comp system, and allows the CFO to meet his assumptions he laid out in the five year Forecast the CMSD just approved in May.   Think about it.  The district passes a five year forecast with projected salaries forecasted by the CFO.  His projections included his assumptions of where our members would be on our Diff Comp system not just this year, but five years down the road. A traditional salary schedule would have given the CFO a clear cut forecasting ability. Now, as TDES data comes in confirming that we actually do have great teachers, the forecasting ability is not quite as easy as a salary schedule.  Now, it seems playing games with student growth measures is the last option for the district to lower these results. 

The irony of all this is that in HB 525, the Mayor, CEO, Foundations, Charter Schools and Greater Cleveland Partnership clamored for elimination of the traditional salary schedule that simply rewarded teachers based on years of service and education. The CTU took up that challenge and never shied away from working with the district to create a strong TDES.   We committed to exploring a differentiated compensation system back in 2011, and followed through on that commitment when HB 525 became law.  We were clear with the district from DAY ONE that adopting such progressive initiatives would not save them money.  In fact, the CTU and AFT cautioned the district that TDES and CDCS would cost them more.  Now, the chickens have come home to roost, and the district is finally figuring out that we were right.  Right in the fact that compensating excellent teachers does cost more money and right in the fact that CLEVELAND HAS EXCELLENT TEACHERS!!!!

We still have a little time to resolve some of these problems and I remain optimistic we can work out some of these issues.  However, I was also optimistic we could work out the Principal credentialing nightmare and look what happened.  The district ignored the Board of Education’s resolution, refused to even answer our grievance, took us to court to prevent us from getting the information, the finally talked to us and settled with what we work seeking originally, but only after an arbitrator ruled against them.  Rest assured, if the district wants this battle to end up in grievances and in the courts we will be happy to oblige them.  This is that important. 

In Union, David