Wednesday, January 23, 2013 Pg.18
State’s new teacher evaluation system promising but time consuming
By Sharee Wanner
According to Box Elder School District officials, the new Utah State Office of Education’s educator and administrator evaluation system being tested in the district has potential, but some changes would need to be made for it to be truly effective.
District Superintendent Ron Wolff said the new evaluation system “will make a difference if the program is implemented correctly and with fidelity,” however, while the new system provides better feedback for teachers and administrators, and will help implement goals to improve education throughout all of Utah’s schools, it takes a significant amount of time.
“I believe that we’ll need to take a ‘wait and see’ approach regarding the value in relationship to effort, while working hard to provide the USOE with the input they need to make adjustments,” Wolff said, adding, “It is much better than what we’re currently using.”
Assistant Superintendent Terry Jackson said it is premature to say what the effects will be long term for the teachers, but for the administrators it’s a lot of work so far.
Given the in-depth and labor-intensive nature of the new program, it has the potential to be nearly another full-time job for school principals. New teachers must receive full evaluations for the first three years of their employments, and teachers with four or more years need to have partial evaluations every other year. Evaluations are done by the administration personally. They document each observation—which means extra time to fill out the necessary paperwork and input data gathered on each teacher.
For teachers, the new program is divided into ten standards: learner development, learning differences, learning environments, content knowledge, assessment, instructional planning, instructional strategies, reflection and continuous growth, leadership and collaboration, and professional and ethical behavior.
On the administrative level, there are six dispositions or standards: visionary leadership, teaching and learning, management for learning, community collaboration, ethical leadership and system leadership.
The new evaluation system is one part of a three-part system to hold teachers and administrators accountable for the education student’s receive. The evaluation will affect not only salaries, but could hold implications for their employment as well.
The district will also start piloting the second aspect of the evaluation program this spring. The second elements are surveys given to students and parents regarding educator effectiveness. A third element, a new system to judge student progress, will be developed and implemented before the spring of 2015. The process for evaluating student progress is essential to the total package, Wolff said.
Box Elder School District is one of six districts in the state to be a part of the new Utah Educational Leadership Standards and the Utah Effective Teaching Standards program. Within the district, all but four schools have volunteered to be part of the two year pilot program that will evaluate and assess teacher and administrator performance.
Those involved will provide the state with input of what’s working and what’s not so the program can be more effective.
The state will then make changes based on the input. Some of them are simple, such as formatting changes in the rubric. Content won’t be changed as much as editing details and bugs in the system. The input received by the state is being reviewed and evaluated, and may be adjusted by the individual school as time progresses.
Box Elder Middle School Principal Jason Sparks said most of the problems he’s seen with the program are editing issues. Others are issues with the computer program. He said the program itself is fairly user friendly. He can use his iPad to take notes on the teacher as he observes and with the touch of an icon, he can refer back to the standards, and even load evaluations to state servers from the tablet.
“The extra work of learning the new system is worth the effort, however,” Sparks said. “It gives teacher’s concrete expectations. Their current level of teaching is assessed and they have higher levels to aspire to.” Not every teacher will be expected to be at the highest level at first. They will continue to learn.
As the program is developed within the district, the teachers will become more familiar with what it entails. There are just a few that have been selected for this first year of the program.
Evaluations take place twice each school year; November through December and January through February. During each period, administrators observe the teachers in formal and informal visits to their classrooms. The evaluation standards are uniform. Because of the impact an evaluation has on the salary and employment of each individual; accurate documentation is of utmost importance.
Superintendent Wolff said the evaluations have two primary purposes, the first, and most important, is to identify areas where educators can grow and then monitor their development. The second is to place each educator into one of four categories that could impact his/her continued employment, as well as potential increases in pay.
There is also self-assessment that is taken by each teacher and administrator. Combined with the administrative evaluation, the self-assessment determines whether or not they will get a raise and if their employment will continue.
The evaluation process provides opportunities for individuals to assess where they are, look at what they’re doing well and set goals to help them improve.
Jackson said, “Look at it as an opportunity for growth and professional development, not a hoop to check off.”
Superintendent Wolff, Jackson and MaryKay Kirkland are working with administrators and teachers throughout Box Elder School District to implement the new state requirements by the 2014-2015 school year