New Educator Evaluation System

New Educator Evaluation System
As a part of an Omnibus School Code bill, the Pennsylvania Legislature has passed a new law pertaining to educator evaluation. The law establishes the framework for a new evaluation system, which will be implemented for classroom teachers beginning in the 2013-14 school year and “non teaching professional employees” in 2014-15.
Well, after along time in the making, the world has finally lost its respect for teachers… And in a way, I can’t blame them. The problem is, not every teacher is to blame. In many cases, teachers can grow too comfortable in there positions. Think about it, you teach a class like US History and you spend the first 5 years of career getting all of your information together. Lesson plans, tests, Powerpoint presentations and study guides, now I ask you what do you do for the next 40 years. How can you continue to make it better? So, is the teacher really at fault? Or what about the 10th grade math teacher that has to work with the same information all the time, nothing new about math is coming down the road. It’s easy to be on the other side of the bus stop and make comments about what they think teachers are doing… Right or wrong. But in the end, the negative comments always out weight the positive ones. I think we have a long battle a head of us, I just hope we can figure it out sooner then latter.  I believe teachers on a whole, do what they think is best for the students, but I do believe we could be doing it better.
This summer (2012) Pennsylvania put into effect a new Teacher Evaluation System that is broken down into 4 sections. For classroom teachers, 50 percent of the overall rating is to be based on multiple student performance measures which shall be comprised of the following: 15 percent building level data, including but not limited to:
  • student performance on assessments
  • value-added data from PDE;
  • graduation rate;
  • promotion rate;
  • attendance rate;
  • advanced placement course participation; and
  • SAT and PSAT data.
15 percent teacher specific data, including but not limited to: 20 percent elective data including student achievement measures that are locally developed and selected by the school entity from a list approved by PDE, including but not limited to:
  • school-designed measures and examinations;
  • nationally recognized standardized tests;
  • industry student projects; and
  • student portfolios.
The remaining 50 percent will be based on classroom observation and practice models related to student achievement in each of the following areas:
  • planning and preparation;
  • classroom environment;
  • instruction, and
  • professional responsibilities.
Ok, so there’s the quick overview of the new evaluation system, and as someone who feels like they do a good job teaching, I say bring it on. The section that teachers need to really focus on is the last section. Teachers need to start here, because I believe that if you have a great classroom, solid planning and preparation and a caring professional attitude, the first 3 sections should work itself out. I feel that right now, everyone wants to see results in high stakes testing and I understand why schools are killing themselves to teach to the test. Teachers are being asked to make sure they prepare their students for testing. Up until now schools funding and structure was base on how well the test score are. Now teachers are going to be evaluated on the same things; data, test score and success rates after graduation. Now here’s the real issues that are going to effect teachers and the biggest one is no one is safe… not even if you have tenure!
In 2013-2014 all the schools in Pennsylvania will be asked to be using the new teacher evaluation system. The evaluation tool should be complete by the end of the 2012 – 2013 school year. PDE and PSEA are working together to make sure all parties are probably supported in these new laws. The only schools that might not be using this system would be; any school that has a contract that labels it other wise. Once the contract time is up, the school will have to take on the new system. The rating system that will be in place is Distinguished, Proficient, Needs Improvement and Failing. Needs Improvement and Failing are considered unsatisfactory. If a teacher receives 2 unsatisfactory reviews in a row the teacher may be let go. – Now here is one of the first problems, in many school districts they can’t get teachers to work there, let alone get the students to care about passing a test. I would question, that even if a teacher is unsatisfactory, would a school district get rid of him knowing it won’t be easy to replace them. These types of situation will be interesting to see what really happens.
Remember the new evaluation tool has been designed to protect teachers from being fired because of data and test score. 50% of the evaluation is based on being a good teacher. This is where the teacher’s passion should show up, but I do believe that if the observation section is rated distinguished or proficient, I would bet, the test score will stand up to the requirements. I also, think that in this case, the schools will need to do a better job with pre and post test assessments. Another issue that might be a big problem is, how will the information will be provided to the public? Can you imagine if parents get a hold of the scores and demand that teachers are not capable to work in the school. Sometimes people feel that they know why a school might be failing. It would be nice, if parents put that much effort into their kids homework. One interesting thing that I saw, is that rating tool will also target principles and administration. I am a strong believer that people want to be lead by a passionate director. In a lot of cases I do feel that schools go in the wrong direction, because of the culture the administration sets. I have seen a few different schools that thrive with one director and go down a bad path with another.
All in all… I’m Excited. I think this is a step in the right direction, and it is time that we put a system in place. I think that this system really puts a lot of pressure on the administrators to enforce this evaluation. The most important part of this system is for the state to actually support it. And not come out with a full head of steam and then in two years nobody supports it any more. The state needs to be the systems biggest fan. They need to highlight schools, teachers and staff members for outstanding work. They need to develop professional plans for administrators to use to support the programs. To many times we see education initiatives just come and go. Here are some of the problems that I see coming down the road. The administrator in charge of conducting these evaluations needs to be very confident and straightforward in this approach. If it is taken to lightly from the start, the school will never really be able to use it as a solid tool for the promotion or dismissal of teachers. If teachers don’t begin to understand the process is truly important for the schools and personal growth, then this will just go down hill fast. This process is going to need strong leadership to accomplish its goals. Also, administration needs to be very careful on how they provide feedback. For example; if a teacher gets two unsatisfactory in a row and losses their job, you can bet the lawsuits are going to be coming. The paperwork trail needs to be better then perfect to protect everyone involved. I wonder, how this will all work out with PSEA. But it might not be so bad because they are part of the development of the evaluation…

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