Schools change the way teachers are evaluated

There will be some changes made to the way Wilton teachers are evaluated beginning with the 2014-15 school year, as presented by Assistant Superintendent Charles Smith to the Board of Education at its Thursday, March 27, meeting.

“At the end of April, the governor felt the state requirements for teacher evaluation were too onerous for districts to implement,” Dr. Smith told the board.

Gov. Dannel Malloy asked the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to give districts flexibility in terms of heeding those requirements.

“PEAC agreed with the governor’s recommendations and forwarded them to the state board of education, who adopted them,” explained Dr. Smith.

“The Connecticut State Department of Education then disseminated those options to districts with the direction that we would meet with our own teacher evaluation committees, consider those options and make some decisions.”

The state has provided each district with new flexibility options for three teacher evaluation issues:

  • Overreliance on testing.
  • Number of required formal observations for teachers rated proficient or exemplary.
  • Development of SLOs (student learning outcomes).

Dr. Smith said Wilton’s teacher evaluation professional learning committee — the Wilton PEAL Committee — has decided to not make any revisions this late in the school year, but it has provided  recommendations for the coming school year.

Overreliance on testing

When it comes to the issue of overreliance on testing, the current requirement noted by the state is that CMT/CAPT is used for 22.5% of teacher evaluations.

Dr. Smith said he finds the issue “a little bit perplexing” since the CMT and CAPT tests don’t apply to the vast majority of teachers.

“We’re not administering the CAPT or CMT. The only time we’re administering it is in grades five, eight and 10,” said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith said the Wilton PEAL Committee will no longer use the standardized tests for evaluation purposes.

Required formal observations

The second issue noted by the state had to do with the number of required formal observations for teachers rated “proficient” or “exemplary.” Ratings range from satisfactory to developing, proficient and exemplary, Dr. Smith said.

The current requirement includes at least one formal, in-class observation each year and one to two reviews of practice per year.

Dr. Smith said this teacher evaluation issue does not apply to first- and second-year teachers, but it does apply to years three and four, as well as tenured teachers.

The state’s flexibility options include:

  • At least one formal, in-class observation every three years.
  • Three informal, in-class observations all other years.
  • One review of practice each year.
  • Observations for non-classroom teachers taking place in appropriate settings.

“Observations for non-classroom teachers is really a non-issue for us because we have already been doing observations of non-classroom teachers,” Dr. Smith said.

When it comes to proficient and exemplary tenured staff, the Wilton PEAL Committee decided on:

  • An in-depth unit of instruction every four years.
  • Three informal, in-class observations in off years, with a focus on professional growth area.
  • One review of practice per year.

Development of SLOs

“A student growth objective is actually a student growth outcome,” explained Dr. Smith. “It’s just a broad statement of what students are achieving.”

Dr. Smith said he finds the third issue of student learning objective development “interesting.”

“They put one to four student growth objectives per year as the current requirement, but we were clearly told it had to be four,” Dr. Smith said to the board.

The second current requirement noted by the state is that all SLOs must align with student academic growth indicators.

Under the new options, the focus will be on one student learning outcome, which will include multiple indicators of academic growth and development.

Dr. Smith said teachers will write very specific goals known as indicators of academic growth and development (IAGDs).

“Usually, they’ll take a broad goal and break it into several specific objectives,” he explained.

Dr. Smith said teachers will most likely set specific goals for groups of students in their classes.

“Children who are relatively high-achieving will have one goal, students who are more in the middle will have a different goal and children who are in the lower level will have a different goal,” said Dr. Smith. “We will have multiple indicators for that one goal.”

Dr. Smith said teachers have to set a goal that addresses the majority of the students they work with.

“The state law has always been that you don’t have to write a goal for every student that you work with,” he explained. “It has to be for the majority of the students that you work with.”

Dr. Smith said although teachers who teach more than one class could have multiple learning objectives, “we’re only going to ask them to write one.”

New evaluation requirements

The state has issued a new requirement to address the teacher evaluation issue of onerous data collection, which includes the following issues:

  • Excessive data management.
  • Technical and infrastructure problems cause system failures.
  • No privacy protections.

All districts are now required to:

  • Limit data, information and artifacts to those specifically used for evaluating teachers.
  • Limit access to teacher data to primary evaluator, superintendent/designee and others directly involved in the evaluation/PD process.
  • Limit SDE access to identifiable student data to that needed to comply with statutory audits.

Starting Sept. 15, every district’s teacher evaluation and development committee must examine the efficiency of data management systems and make reports to local education boards on an annual basis.