In a 68-3 vote, the Rhode Island House has approved a bill easing teacher evaluations for the vast majority of public school teachers.
The bill calls for teachers who earn effective or highly effective ratings to be evaluated just once every three to four years, instead of the current policy of annual reviews.
If the bill becomes law, new teachers and teachers with low evaluation ratings would still be evaluated on an annual basis.
State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who brought annual teacher evaluations to Rhode Island, opposed the legislation. Gist has argued that teacher quality is key to improving student achievement.
In recent months, Gist had softened her stance on teacher evaluations, introducing a change in state policy that allowed effective and highly effective teachers to complete only part of the annual evaluation process. But Gist maintained her position that annual reviews are still important to coaching teachers and improving public schools.
Teachers' union leaders pushed state lawmakers to address the evaluation issue. They say reviews eat up significant time and resources, and it is not realistic to complete a meaningful evaluation for every teacher in every school on an annual basis.