Conflict over teacher evaluation system emerges in Barresi-Ballard exchange
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Published: 14-Dec-2011

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The teacher evaluation system used in Tulsa Public Schools has at least tentatively been selected as Oklahoma’s new model for teacher evaluation programs, as the result of a vote taken last week by the state Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission.

However, the choice of the Tulsa model must ultimately be approved by the Oklahoma Board of Education, and thereby lies a story that will unfold rather quickly, but which is not yet resolved.

Tuesday evening, CapitolBeatOK was provided a copy of a letter from the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, dated December 8, listing a series of actions that “must be taken” quickly by the Tulsa Public Schools system; and a December 12 reply by Tulsa’s superintendent that rebuffed several steps listed in the state letter. 

The recent background of the story begins with a strong majority vote choosing Tulsa as the state model, over programs known as Marzano’s Causal Teacher Evaluation Model and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.

The Commission, consists of 19 members. At the commission’s December 5 meeting, Tulsa’s model received 13 affirmative votes. 

Voting for selecting Tulsa were Dr. Phil Berkenbile (Director, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education), state Representative Ed Cannaday (a Porum Democrat), state Sen. John Ford (a Bartlesville Republican), Susan Harris (Tulsa Chamber of Commerce), Dr. Phyllis Hudecki (Cabinet Secretary of Education), state Senator Richard Lerblance (a Hartshorne Democrat), Jeff Mills (Executive Director, Oklahoma State School Boards Association), Gen. Ben Robinson, ret. (Oklahoma School of Science and Math), Joel Robison (Oklahoma Education Association), Dr. Cynthia Ross (President, Cameron University), Robert Ross (President & CEO, INASMUCH Foundation), Renzi Stone (Chairman & CEO, Saxum), and Ginger Tinney (Executive Director, Professional Oklahoma Educators). 

Voting against selecting Tulsa as the model were Ed Allen (Executive Director, American Federation of Teachers), Dr. Janet Barresi (State Superintendent of Public Instruction), Sheila Groves (Executive Director, PTA), state Rep. Earl Sears, a Bartlesville Republican, and Linda Hasler-Reid (Executive Director, Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation). 

The same five commissioners had supported the Marzano model over the Tulsa model. Sen. Ford had also voted for the Marzano model, but supported the Tulsa model in what became the dispositive vote of the commission in the matter. Tulsa Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard had announced he would not vote, to avoid appearance of a conflict of interest.

The plot thickened in recent days with the exchange of letters between Superintendent Barresi (last Thursday) and Superintendent Ballard (on Monday).

Barresi told Ballard the TLE Commission’s recommendations “will be considered” – at the Thursday (December 15) meeting of the state Board of Education. In order to approve Tulsa’s model “being named as the default model for Oklahoma, all rights, ownership and control of the system must be transferred from [Tulsa Public Schools] to the State. This means the State of Oklahoma will have the right to change the name of the framework as well as the structure and content of the framework without permission or input from TPS in order to convert the Tulsa model for statewide application.” 

Indicating her staff had been in touch with the Tulsa system’s staff, Dr. Barresi said the two parties would need “to negotiate, draft, and sign legal documents” to transfer all rights from TPS to the state. The Barresi letter then detailed that “ownership of the framework” would include handbooks, supplements, rubrics, training materials, videos, software, manuals, source codes, research, “and any and all resources associated” with the framework. 

Barresi’s letter then went on to specify very detailed instructions for inventories, copies, digital copies “in editable files (not read only PDFs),” and other particulars.

Barresi also wrote, “The Department will need a list of all frameworks reviewed by TPS in the development of the Framework as well as a notation as to which of these frameworks were specifically used in the development of the framework.” 

In what could be characterized as understatement, the letter included many other specific requirements and concluded, “It is a great undertaking to accomplish these goals between now and December 15, 2011. However, it is imperative that your Board authorize and transfer the documents before the State Board of Education votes” on the TLE Commission recommendation.

Dr. Ballard replied to Dr. Barresi in a letter dated Monday, beginning with a declaraction that TPS and the local board were “honored to have received” the TLE Commission recommendation to serve as the default “qualitative assessment component.”

In what might be deemed irony, he said, “We look forward to working together with you to make the roll-out of the system as smooth and successful as possible.” 

Ballard observed in his letter that Barresi “quite properly characterized” completion of the requested tasks as a “great undertaking.” He specified then five items or concerns.

Perhaps most essentially, he noted the next meeting of the local school board “will not occur until December 19.”

Ballard said he “cannot recommend” transfer of ownership of the evaluation system to the state, but said he was “prepared to recommend that the TPS Board license” the material to the state. 

Among other points, he wrote, “please advise me as to whether the representatives of the Danielson and Marzano models … must transfer ownership rights of the their models and all materials associated with their models as is being request of Tulsa Public Schools, and when you communicated such conditions to them.” He also asked to know whether transfer of ownership rights was being required of “any other qualitative evaluation models.” 

The balance of his letter was written predicated on the assumption that a licensing agreement, not a transfer of ownership, was in order.

Concerning one request for information, he rebuffed Barresi’s request by saying, “we have no information or documentation that is relevant to this request and no further response is necessary.” 

The state board meeting is scheduled for Thursday (December 15) while the Tulsa board meeting is slated for Monday (December 19). 

Aside from the time clash, conflict over ownership vs. licensing appears certain.

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