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Georgia BOE adopts new teacher, leader evaluation measures

A newly developed evaluation system that was passed on Thursday now gives local school districts a way to evaluate teachers and administrators based on student achievement and student growth.

The new rule, passed by the State Board of Education, comes at the end of the first school year where Gwinnett County Public Schools, along with 99 percent of other school districts around the state, started a new evaluation program. Gwinnett began piloting the program in 2010.

Associate Superintendent Frances Davis reported to the Gwinnett County Board of Education in November that the district wants to align the way it selects people who join the group of about 11,900 teachers to fit 10 performance standards and recognize exemplary attendance by teachers.

“The mindset of, ‘how do we get better with how we’re doing’ is there,” Davis said Thursday. “The growth pains come from understanding what the process is, implementation, understanding requirements of a new requirement system. They feel good about having knowledge of the tool, as well as being able to be totally transparent through the process. It’s a change from the binary system of satisfactory-unsatisfactory; it moves to a higher level of specification of my level as a teacher.”

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said school systems should base decisions about retention, promotion, compensation, dismissals, and other staffing decisions, including transfers, placements, and preferences if there are layoffs, primarily on the results of the new evaluation system.

Gwinnett’s previous teacher evaluation system, called GTEP, was based primarily on observations and rated teacher performance as either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” The new evaluation system will give teachers, assistant principals and principals four ratings: Exemplary, Proficient, Needs Development, or Ineffective. Proficient is the target rating for both teachers and school leaders.

A teacher or leader who receives an evaluation that’s in the lower two categories should be reported to the Professional Standards Commission. And any individual who is in the lower two categories for any two years in a five-year certificate period should not be eligible to have their certificate renewed by the PSC until performance improves, Cardoza said.

An evaluator collects information from formative observations, brief observations, student perception surveys and conference summaries, along with documentation provided by the teacher. Evaluators will use rubrics to determine the quality of the evidence for that standard. All of the evidence and consistent practice will determine the performance level.

The perception surveys are collected from students in third grade through high school. These surveys are aligned to teaching categories such as instructional strategies, differentiated instruction, positive learning environment and an academically challenging environment.

Gwinnett’s evaluation system does not apply to teacher support positions, such as media specialists and counselors.

The new rule meets a requirement that came from House Bill 244, which was passed last year, and requires the Georgia Department of Education to fully implement a teacher and leader evaluation process by the 2014-15 school year.

“During pilot implementation, we have received feedback from teachers and administrators that confirms that both systems will increase communication and collaboration among school staffs, and deepen educators’ ability to prepare their students for the future,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a press release.

During the fall, Davis said teachers had two unscheduled classroom observations for at least 10 minutes each, and one formal observation. By May 1, teachers will have a minimum of two, 30-minute observations and four brief observations of at least 10 minutes, and discuss progress with administrators.

“It’s been very positive from teachers,” Davis said. “Teachers are excited (that) administrators are spending more time in the classrooms with observations. They’re excited about the impact this will have on student achievement.”

Principals decide how to assign evaluators to teachers.

Using about 700 tablets, Davis said local schol administrators completed classroom observations, and generated weekly status reports. There are also orientation and training for new teachers and leaders, including seven teacher training sessions from March through July, and monthly updates are given during leadership development meetings.

Attendance is also a factor in Gwinnett, and Davis said teacher attendance this year is at 95.8 percent, versus 94.4 last year.

Questions are designed to assess the learning environment teachers create for their students. Evaluators will use the survey results to help inform ratings on the aligned standards.

The 26 Race to the Top school districts began piloting the program in 2012. In 2012-13, Georgia conducted a full-year implementation of Teacher Keys Effectiveness System and Leader Keys Effectiveness System, with 54 districts, two state agencies, four Local Education Agencies charter schools and 16 additional schools participating.

Because Gwinnett is among the Race to the Top school districts, the district will participate in merit bonuses next year, Cardoza said.

The TKES and LKES are major components of Georgia’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waiver. The U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia a no-cost extension of its Race to the Top grant to provide more time for statewide rollout for training and implementation of the systems.