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School District outlines new teacher evaluation program

By Staff | Aug 24, 2011

A new teacher evaluation system, which needs to be implemented by 2014 due to Race to the Top initiative, will include additional evaluation, classroom visits and a correlation to student achievement or “growth.”

Dr. Greg Adkins, chief administrator officer, said it has been pretty exciting to be involved in the teacher evaluation system project. Through team work of more than a 100 district employees, he said he thinks they have created an instrument that will provide consistency throughout the district, which, in turn, will benefit students.

“It is all about student achievement,” he said. “If we don’t do this right it will have a direct impact on kids in the classroom.”

The teacher evaluation system, which is a driving force behind Race to the Top, has both state and federal requirements with which the district has to comply.

“What is most important we want to improve teaching and instruction in this district,” Adkins said. “That is what an evaluation is supposed to do.”

A teacher evaluation is important because it tells them how they are improving over time; it gives them a way to reflect on their own performance and tackle what can be done to improve if needed. Adkins said the evaluation helps encourage an ongoing process between the principal, assistant principal and teachers about student achievement.

Due to the effort of trying to create district wide consistency, a summer leadership program was implemented to train administrators about the evaluation system and how it works. In addition, a DVD is in the process of being produced so it can be posted on the district’s website to allow teachers to view the components of the system.

A big change has been made to the teacher evaluation system this year, which includes two formal evaluations instead of one at the end of the year. The new system includes two formal evaluations for teachers in the middle of the school year and at the end.

“That is a good change,” Adkins said because it gives first time teachers an opportunity to receive good feedback about their performance.

Half of the evaluation system includes student growth.

Adkins told the board that unfortunately in the Lee County School District there is zero correlation between a teacher’s evaluation and how well their students are progressing.

“You should be able to pick up an evaluation and it be an accurate presentation of how the students are doing in the classroom,” he said.

Dr. Richard Itzen, accountability, research and continuous improvement director said the state took the lead on taking the first steps in putting together a growth model for FCAT. He said there will be other factors that are going to be taken into account when looking at learning gains of students as well.

The growth model, he said is going to calculate an expected gain and compare it to gains actually made by students.

“The score the teacher will receive will be a difference between the two,” Itzen said.

There is also a school component with the evaluation system because student gains do not only happen in the classroom. Itzen said the school component will include such things as school-wide activities, tutoring, after school programs and school-wide discipline policies.

A classroom walk through will also be a part of the evaluation system to further tackle student growth as well.

The four domains that the teachers will be evaluated on during classroom visits, or walk through, include planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.

Trafalgar Elementary School Principal Marie Vetter said the frequent visit to the teacher’s classroom is very different from the current system that is in place. She said the new system includes four classroom visits per semester, or eight for the entire year, which Vetter thinks most teachers will welcome.

“We all want to know how we are doing,” she said, adding that the visits will only increase opportunities to improve their skills.

The classroom visits, Vetter said, will also improve effectiveness and staff development, along with tackling any performance issues in a timely manner.

“Timely feedback is a proven coaching model that works and that I use with my teachers,” she said. “When you are coaching on a more frequent basis, it increases the level of trust.”

Adkins said each principal in the district will use the same forms when doing the classroom walk throughs to provide further consistency. He said they are currently working on an application that can be used on an iPad for the walk through.

“It is exciting to see this thing come together,” he said about the application.

For principals to use the iPad application they would have to sign into the system and find the teacher they will be evaluating. Adkins said the application will allow administrators to see which classrooms they have been to and which domain they have already evaluated. He said the idea is to have the iPad in a format that is easy to use for the administrator to use, so they can spend their time watching the teacher and students during the five- to seven-minute visit.

In addition, Adkins said teachers will have the opportunity to view how they did on their walk through once the form is uploaded.

Board Chairman Thomas Scott said people have a natural want to succeed, which is a positive place to start from. He said the evaluation system is a way to provide teachers with a response to how they are doing.

“It’s about getting to the truth,” he said. “We may not like what someone says about how we perform, but we have to know to get better.”