Bill Aims To Improve Teacher Evaluations

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Amidst all the headline bills regarding guns, ethics, hospital bed taxes and various attempts to repeal federal constitutional amendments, there are bills that affect some of the real problems Georgia has faced for far too long quietly moving through the legislature.  One such proposal – House Bill 244 – has passed the House and should be considered by the Full Senate this week.  It attempts to improve the evaluation of teachers and deserves proper attention.

The bill is described by supporters as a way to improve public education in Georgia by providing for “meaningful” principal and teacher evaluations.  The nonpartisan group StudentsFirst promotes the bill as a way to give educators “the respect they deserve by recognizing those who are great and providing resources to those who may benefit from extra help.”

The bill makes some minor tweaks and more substantial changes to evaluation requirements for Georgia’s public school teachers – including those teaching in charter schools.  Those who receive two performance evaluations of “unsatisfactory”, “ineffective” or “needs development” during a five year period must be referred to the Professional Standards Commission.  If referred, the educator would not be eligible for a renewable teaching certificate until all deficiencies of the teacher had been addressed. 

Under currently law, only those receiving the rating of “unsatisfactory” twice in five years would receive the referral.

Bigger changes to the law include the call for the State Board of Education to develop a new evaluation method and system to begin no later than the 2014-2015 school year.  The law calls for multiple measures of a teacher’s performance, “prioritizing growth in student achievement”.  Teachers will be given written notice prior to the school year on how they will be evaluated which shall include “multiple, rigorous, and transparent methods.”

For teachers whose students are subject to statewide assessments, these tests scores will account for no less than 50% of a teacher’s evaluation under the proposed law.  Teachers will also be evaluated multiple times during the year with formal written guidance given as to how they are performing.

The results of these evaluations will not be subject to open records request, so as to allow them to remain instructional for personnel development within the school system.

The evaluation standards are to be developed by a range of stakeholders, and hopefully will include meaningful input from a broad cross section of Georgia’s public school educators.  For this process to work, it must be viewed as a collaborative effort and not a bureaucratic exercise to scapegoat classroom teachers or their principles for larger issues that contribute to poor performances.

Yet at the same time, Georgia has bounced along the bottom echelon of public school scores for decades.  Investing significantly larger sums of money and brining teachers up to among the highest salaries in the nation when measured against local costs of living didn’t improve scores.

It is time to try new things, and developing an honest system of teacher assessment must be something that is supported by politicians and those at the department of education.  It is also something that good teachers – while likely skeptical – should embrace and work with those establishing criteria to ensure that their expectations of classroom performance match the reality of what is under their control.

Above all, Georgia must understand that the status quo is unacceptable.  HB 244 isn’t a simple or a quick fix.  And the implementation of the rules developed by the State Board of Education must be closely monitored – with the classroom educator viewed as a vital partner in improving the outcomes of Georgia students.

It is time we tried something new.  Investing in a more comprehensive evaluation system using highly trained observers seems like one way to identify those who are doing things very well, as well as those who could use additional resources to unlock their own full potential as teachers.

9 comments

  1. saltycracker says:

    This is probably a typical public worker efficiency test to justify and expand an employee and administrative centered bureaucracy, exactly what is criticized. The student, patient, customer is the correct focus.

    The outcome today is to have more and better paid/rewarded folks in the non-pupil contact arena from admin to retirees and get there ASAP. A systemic overall using technology is way past due.

    The positive of the Hope high grades is that the top tier Universities are taking a hard look at extra-curricular achievement for admissions. Tutoring poor non-English speaking kids will get a senior with “A”‘s more mileage than working a cash register.

  2. Rambler14 says:

    “Investing significantly larger sums of money and bringing teachers up to among the highest salaries in the nation when measured against local costs of living didn’t improve scores.”

    “Over the last decade the Georgia Assembly has reduced public school funding by more than a billion dollars.”

    Which of these statements are true?

    • Joseph says:

      Both. State funding is not the only way Schools are funded, the local district generates substantial amounts of money to operate. Our School district (Muscogee) for example provides a supplement on top of the State’s portion to help bring Teacher salaries above average.

      ESPLOSTs also provide lots of local dollars for infrastructure which we have used to varying degrees of success.

  3. lively64 says:

    Tying student academic achievement to teacher evaluations has proven to work so well in counties like Dougherty and in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.. Stakeholders from the private sector, business people such as those on the boards of education in Sumter, DeKalb and Clayton Counties certainly would be able to identify an effective educator when they see one.

    This is going to be fantastic!

  4. seenbetrdayz says:

    This reminds me of a rigorous plan put forth by that guy . . . uh. Roy something. Barney? Barnstormer? Barnum & Bailey animal crackers? Hmm. I can’t remember. Then again, apparently, neither can the GOP.

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    No mention of teacher evaluations as a component of Race To The Top? Or is this effort not connected?

    • Lea Thrace says:

      My thoughts exactly. Makes me think that they are giving up on RTTT and are just going to do their own thing. Teacher Eval was an intergral requirement of the grant. In fact there was mention a few months back of the grant being in jeopardy because the eval system hadn’t been rolled out yet. I can’t imagine that they would want two eval systems put in place.

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