FarmingtonJune 27, 2012
Teacher evaluation system stresses growth
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Staff members involved in designing the Farmington Public Schools’ new teacher evaluations stressed that the evaluations will make teachers, and subsequently the district, better June 19.
Almost a year ago, the state Legislature passed laws making teacher performance the defining factor in staffing reductions, demoting tenure to a tiebreaker when all other factors are equal. The new regulations mandate that student growth account for 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation in the 2013-14 school year, and 50 percent beginning in 2015-16.
The district began preparing a teacher evaluation system to meet the new requirements last fall and will pilot the 25 percent evaluation model this coming school year.
“It’s been an enormous undertaking. Our staff have been just outstanding professionals in leading this work. I want to compliment them. I want to thank them for their tremendous effort, because I believe we have one of the highest-quality products that is anywhere. I’d put it up anywhere against any kind of other program being reviewed or developed in the state,” said Superintendent Sue Zurvalec.
North Farmington High School English teacher Parker Salowich and Forest Elementary School psychologist and instructional consultation team facilitator Rose Smith presented the system for the school board’s review June 19.
“The process regarding this work was exhaustive, and it was created with great fidelity to the integrity of purpose, the purpose of supporting our teachers continuing to grow as teachers,” Salowich said.
“For some, the idea of evaluation is scary. It’s cold. It’s informal. In some cases, in some schools, this is true. For some evaluations, we’re a mere formality, a checked box, if you will. Our charge was to change this idea. Our charge was to make evaluations and observations personal and reflective in nature. Our charge was to make evaluations transparent. Our charge was to make evaluations a narrative, which provided the story of student growth, as well as professional growth. Our charge was to make evaluations something to look forward to and share with your peers. Our charge was accomplished,” said Salowich.
The district formed six task teams to design and synthesize the evaluations, so 97 teachers and 26 administrators had some hand in the final product.
The evaluation model starts with goal-setting in the fall.
“The goals will be tailored by each teacher in order to address specific needs. They’ll be based on their strengths and challenges and their teaching environment, and that will provide ownership for the teacher of their goals in their classroom,” said Smith. “They’ll lead to higher student achievement. High-quality instructions will be the direct results of that goal setting.”
The district will collect data from students, parents and peers to shape a teacher’s evaluations. A detailed manual fleshes out the professional growth plans that teachers will develop, rubrics for their nonteaching duties, observations, professional development, peer support, final evaluations and appeals.
“All teachers will be provided with a menu of supports in order to personalize each teacher’s specific area of need. Such menu items may include peer-to-peer observations, dialogue and feedback, collaboration in professional learning teams, as well as professional learning communities. Dialogue and feedback are critical to support, because they directly shape further instruction,” said Salowich.
The evaluation model sets up “checkpoints” at various months during the school year to monitor progress toward goals so that teachers keep up with their plans. The yearlong process ends with dialogue and feedback between individual teachers and administrators.
“We must support this model and allow it to work over time. It’s not something we’re going to be able to implement in September and it’s just going to be great by November,” Salowich said.
“It’s going to be difficult, and there’ll be some rocky road ahead, but we must see it to the fore,” said Salowich.
He said that there is room to make changes to the evaluation model as the district puts it in practice.
“We must further remember this document’s fluidity is its greatest strength, with room for adaptations and evolution,” said Salowich.
“Instruction is what we do, and there’s no more important work than continuous improvement for quality instruction,” said Smith.
Trustee Frank Reid approves of the approach.
“I think the key take-away for me is that this is a model based on supporting growth of the practitioner, instead of mere scrutiny. Scrutiny only gets you so far, but once you spot something where development is needed, having a set of supports there that make this work is really what’s going to take us to the next level,” said Reid.
The school board seems set to stay closely involved in the implementation.
“I think that one thing that we’re going to be interested in on this side of the table is frequent reports throughout next year to understand where we’re going, how we can support this effort, because I just think it’s extremely vital,” Reid said.
The cost of implementing the new evaluations is not known, but the district estimates it will cost $210,000 in new software and teacher time to support the evaluation process.
The evaluation manual was part of the June 19 agenda packet, available at www.farmington.k12.mi.us/district/board/packets/1112.
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