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GCPS pilots new teacher evaluations

Photo by Mallory Hyland

Photo by Mallory Hyland

SUWANEE -- Gwinnett County Public Schools will pilot a new teacher evaluation program next year, Chief Human Resources Officer Frances Davis told the school board this week.

The district's focus is on creating a fair system that uses multiple measures to evaluate teacher effectiveness, Davis said.

The evaluation system will consider principal observations and student achievement, but Davis said the evaluations will consider growth in students' academic performance, not just absolute scores. Other key components of the evaluation will be classroom management, implementation of professional learning and perception surveys from students, parents and colleagues.

The full implementation of the new evaluation is scheduled for the 2012-13 school year, but the district has been developing a new system for a few years, Davis said.

"We know ... that performance

evaluations are essential if we're looking to increase student achievement," Davis said.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the new evaluation system won't be perfect when it's first rolled out.

"If we do it right, it will be better than what we have now," Wilbanks said. "Right now, teachers get one or two observations a year. You have to have one, and if you get more than two, you're in trouble."

A new teacher evaluation system is in line with the goals of Race to the Top, a federal program focused on rewarding states that are creating conditions for education reform. It's also in line with Gov. Sonny Perdue's push to implement performance pay for teachers.

Davis said the focus right now is on developing the new evaluation system, not changing the method in which teachers are paid.

"You have to have a solid evaluation (system) that people believe is fair before you can attach any type of merit to it relative to performance pay," she said. "Somewhere down the line that may be a goal, but you have to get the evaluation piece done first.

"No one would be negatively impacted financially initially in an (evaluation) system where we're not looking at (years of) experience and degrees."

She also said tenure would not be affected by the new evaluation system. Currently, teachers are tenured in Georgia when they sign their fourth contract. Being tenured gives teachers due process rights, and that won't change unless the laws change.

Calvine Rollins, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said the professional organization's position is that teachers should have an input in the evaluation process.

"Our teachers don't mind being accountable," she said. "They don't mind being evaluated, but they want to have a seat at a the table in the process."

Wilbanks said he's trying to involve people in a discussion to determine what the teacher evaluation system should look like.