Oklahoma isn't the only state rushing to adopt a new high-stakes evaluation system that promises to identify the best teachers, the worst teachers and everyone in between.
In the past three years, 32 states have made changes to teacher evaluation system, according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality released in October.
The new systems differ, each relying on some combination of student performance data and principal observations to score a teacher's ability in the classroom.
Oklahoma's new teacher evaluation system was spurred forward — like those in many states — by the competition for federal funding in the Obama administration's Race to the Top grants.
Senate Bill 2033 pledged that Oklahoma would have a teacher evaluation system based 50 percent on measurable subjective observations and 50 percent on measurable objective student performance data.
And this month, the state Education Board voted to approve three evaluation models to be piloted for the qualitative evaluations.
On the quantitative side, the board adopted a value-added model that will account for 35 percent of a teacher's evaluation based on how a student performs on standardized tests compared to how that student is expected to perform on the test given details about the student's life and past performance.
The remaining 15 percent of objective data has yet to be determined by the board.
According to the teacher quality study, 23 states and the District of Columbia now require teacher evaluations to be based on student learning as shown through student growth or value-added data.
Oklahoma doesn't have the ability to tie a student's test score to a specific teacher.
And calculating an “expected” test score for every student in the state before state exams are administered every year is a complex data analysis that requires a level of detail that Oklahoma has never collected.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the Commission on Teacher and Leader Effectiveness will continue to evaluate value-added systems and how the state will implement one by the 2014-15 school year.
“It is so complex that it takes more time,” Barresi said. “We need to look at these and make sure that we are looking strictly at the teacher's influence on student learning and we've taken into consideration such issues as poverty.”
Alicia Currin-Moore is the executive director of teacher and leader effectiveness, a new office created to oversee Oklahoma's new evaluation system.
“This is an amazing exciting time for education in general and especially for Oklahoma to be on the forefront of creating an evaluation system that I think will accurately reflect all of the amazing teachers we have in our state,” Currin-Moore said.
Some across the nation are urging caution however, particularly as state's tie teacher performance to test results with increasingly high stakes.
The new high stakes in Oklahoma requires tenured teachers to be dismissed who: score ineffective for two consecutive years, score needs improvement for three consecutive years, or fail to average at least a rating of effective over a five-year period.
Nontenured teachers will be fired if they: score ineffective for two consecutive years or fails to reach tenured status after four years.
The law also changed how teachers can earn tenure, known in Oklahoma as Career Teacher status, starting July 1.
The coveted status, which in theory makes it more difficult to be removed from your position, will be obtained only if a teacher scores superior for at least two of three consecutive years, or has averaged a rating of at least effective over a period of four consecutive years.