Rep. O'Brien bill would ease teacher evaluation rule

Rep. O'Brien bill would ease teacher evaluation rule

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island teacher evaluation system requires principals in the schools to evaluate every teacher every year, and it is expected that each of those evaluations cover a period of about 15 hours. Rep. William O’Brien, a math teacher in Providence, said in a news release that he thinks the requirement is "excessive and foists an enormous amount of work" on a school principal, who has many other time-consuming responsibilities.

“Imagine a school with 100 teachers,” said O’Brien, of House District 54 in North Providence. “That’s 1,500 hours of teacher evaluations, every year, which is an enormous amount of time for a principal who has many other duties. While these evaluations may be important, I think there are more reasonable ways to get this accomplished.”

O’Brien has introduced legislation that will establish a sliding scale, of sorts, for teacher evaluations. Under his proposal, any teacher who is, upon an initial evaluation, rated “highly effective” or given a number “4” mark or the equivalent would only need to be evaluated once every four years. A teacher rated as “effective” or given a number “3” mark would need to be evaluated only every three years.

Any teacher who scores a lesser rating could be subject to annual evaluations.

The provisions of the O’Brien legislation are intended to apply only to teachers who have at least three full years of successful teaching experience in their respective district, but would not prohibit the annual evaluation of teachers during their first three years in a district.

“I highly doubt that a teacher found to be highly effective is going to deteriorate greatly over the next few years, so it seems rather redundant, and a waste of time, for that teacher, and the evaluator, to have to go through the process again every year,” said O’Brien. “Yes, there is merit in evaluations, but there is little merit (in) repetitive, time-wasting endeavors and in the cases of highly effective teachers, that may be all that is accomplished.”

O'Brien said he thinks the new rules "would be a great incentive for teachers to strive to do their best and receive the best rating possible."

The O’Brien bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. Co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello, Rep. Kenneth Marshall, Rep. Katherine Kazarian, Rep. Joseph McNamara, and Rep. Scott Slater.