Teachers call for improvements to troubled teacher evaluation program
About 50 public school teachers from around the state turned out at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night where HSTA teacher leaders called for the board to revamp its ineffective and burdensome Educator Effectiveness System (EES) that they called a “failure.”
“Please amend the board’s teacher evaluation policy to enable HSTA to negotiate a smart, supportive and evidence-based evaluation system that improves the working conditions of our teachers and the learning environment of our students,” testified Alan Isbell, a fourth-grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary and president of HSTA’s Maui Chapter, with more than 1,400 teachers.
Roberta Yamamoto, a teacher and librarian at Castle High and president of HSTA’s Windward Chapter, asked the board to “restore respect for public school educators” by addressing the failings of EES that negatively impact students and teachers.
“So much time is focused on test preparation that our curricula have suffered,” Yamamoto testified. “We have to cut units short in order to get our students ready for the test. There is little to no time to plan and create student-driven projects that offer life skills.”
Osa Tui, a teacher and registrar at McKinley High, chairs HSTA’s Negotiations Committee, and said EES has “onerous top-down mandates,” is “exceedingly prescriptive and does not allow for the negotiation of a more sane and rational evaluation instrument.”
Tui asked BOE members to improve EES by “stripping out its burdensome directives. Allow for the negotiation of an evaluation system that lets teachers get back to putting their full efforts into student instruction.”
By removing the outdated and onerous parts of EES, “we can seize an opportunity to improve teacher morale,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee, a longtime social studies teacher. “We can improve teacher quality. We can treat our teachers as professionals and truly entrust them with our children’s future.”
Lokelani Han, a teacher at Kualapuu Elementary Public Conversion Charter School on Molokai and president of HSTA’s Molokai chapter, asked the BOE to revise EES on behalf of more than 100 public and charter school teachers on the friendly isle.
“I am especially concerned about the negative impact of EES on our teachers and students,” Han said. “I believe that a fair evaluation system will empower teachers to direct their own professional growth.”
Laverne Fernandes Moore, a special education teacher at McKinley High, said, “This evaluation system is a sham because it is preventing good people from staying in the system.”
As a veteran 46-year teacher, “I recommend returning to the five-year evaluation cycle and refine the PEP-T evaluation system,” said Moore, who is president of HSTA’s Honolulu chapter, representing close to 2,500 educators.
Kristi Miyamae, a teacher at Mililani Middle and president of HSTA’s 2,400-teacher Central Chapter, said educators already struggle to juggle their responsibilities educating and mentoring their students.
“The addition of the cumbersome and exhaustive evaluation directives further detracts from what we WANT to do; teach the students!” Miyamae said.
Andrea Eshelman, HSTA’s deputy executive director and chief negotiator, asked for the following parts of EES to be revised:
Eshelman said EES has “created unnecessary anxiety and stress for all our members.”
Teachers have been driven by compliance and fear, not by support and improved practices, she said.
An HSTA survey answered by more than 2,000 members in April found 66 percent of the respondents do not believe that all teachers have a fair opportunity to achieve a highly effective rating through EES.
A large percentage—65 percent—of teachers reported a strong negative impact from EES on teacher morale, with only 2 percent reporting a somewhat or strong positive impact, according to the HSTA survey.
“The HSTA negotiations team is working hard to secure significant changes in the teacher evaluations system and is also advocating changes in the BOE policy,” Eshelman added.
More teachers showed up at the BOE’s Kailua Tuesday night meeting than have attended a BOE meeting in years, with most of them wearing red HSTA t-shirts.
While nine teachers testified in person about EES Tuesday, another 38 teachers from across the state turned in written testimony to the BOE about the controversial program. The BOE received more than 75 pages of EES testimony from teachers.
From the Big Island, Waiakea Intermediate librarian Deborah Anderson wrote that it makes sense for the DOE to design evaluation policies “for the vast majority of teachers who are not in need of remediation,” since nearly 94 percent of the teachers have been found to meet or exceed standards.
“A reasonable policy would aim to strengthen these educators’ practice, replacing the emphasis on ratings with one on learning,” Anderson said in written testimony.
HSTA Vice President Justin Hughey, a teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary on Maui, wrote that EES has created several unforeseen problems.
DOE figures show voluntary teacher separations have risen from 829 in the 2010-2011 school year to 1,069 in the 2014-2015 school year, Hughey said.
Hughey said those numbers show Hawaii teachers are quitting the profession at a “remarkable rate.”
As Tuesday night’s meeting came to a close, BOE Vice Chair Brian De Lima noted that more than 93 percent of the public school teachers in the state are graded effective and highly effective under the current evaluation system.
“That’s a testament to the good teaching that’s occurring in our schools throughout the state,” De Lima said.
De Lima thanked the members of the public—most of them teachers—who stayed until the end of the meeting to testify.
“The board is listening and hearing your concerns and obviously we want to do what’s best for the schools and for everybody concerned,” De Lima said. “The testimony tonight, I think we’ve all heard it and we will take it into consideration as we continue to deliberate.”