Making sure teachers are accurately evaluated for their work could take some big changes, but Pinellas County Schools could start trying out new ideas by next school year.
During their Thursday workshop, school board members got their first look at a new teacher evaluation system that school officials hope will be piloted this fall at a few elementary, middle and high schools.
The new system would put less emphasis on standardized test scores and more on how well students are doing in the classroom, said Lisa Grant, the school district’s director of professional development. It also would give teachers updates on how they’re doing before their performance is reflected in their official scores.
“Board members have heard many vocal comments far and wide from teachers about the angst surrounding the current evaluations,” said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. “It’s led to distrust among teachers of the system. … But this model empowers teachers, gives them some control and shows them how they need to improve.”
In 2011, the state Legislature linked teachers’ employment and raises to their students’ performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The new standard went into effect last school year but immediately ran into opposition, because teachers’ scores weren’t based on students’ performance in class but on a standardized test.
This school year, Pinellas teachers will still be evaluated under the state’s value-added model, which looks solely to FCAT scores and administrator evaluations. But if school board members approve the new model, which Superintendent Michael Grego said “is not set in stone,” teachers at a few schools will test it next school year.
The new model still uses the state’s value-added model but minimizes its impact by including student scores from weekly exams on day-to-day instruction, end-of-unit tests and end-of-course tests. The school district will also ask students to submit evaluations of their teachers, Grant said. But school district officials haven’t decided whether the student evaluations will be factored into teachers’ final scores.
“I see this as a mini-approach to what the state is doing, where you’re building your own items you’re going to be tested on,” said Bruce Proud, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. “It starts with the teachers and then the school and then can lead to a district-wide evaluation, so everyone is using the same test. Teachers would prefer to develop their own tests than rely on somebody else to do it.”
Orange County is the only other school district in the state looking to pursue a similar model, Grego said.
If the new evaluation system is approved, teachers and school officials would start creating their tests in the fall and be evaluated by them in the spring, Grant said. While students won’t have any additional tests to worry about beyond what they already take in class, the tests may have to be rewritten to meet the more rigorous reading and writing requirements of the Common Core Standards, a new statewide curriculum.
Board members had more questions and requests for details than comments on the proposal, but Black said she believes the pilot will be effective.
“Pinellas has been progressive in the past, we’ve tried pilot evaluations before, and a lot of times they were derailed because they didn’t comply with the law,” she said. “But I don’t think this is just another pilot. When you think of all of us on this highway toward student achievement, there are going to be potholes, detours, places where people can merge on.
“This stays within the confines of the law, allows us to look at measuring teachers based on development, and I think it provides a tremendous opportunity for us to help teachers.”