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Ward teachers to be evaluated by their students

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Children’s surveys, performance to gauge effectiveness

By Meaghan Downs

Student growth and student-answered surveys will be two new components of evaluating the effectiveness of Anderson County teachers.
A new teacher evaluation system, known as the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES), places teachers on a “continuum of performance,” from the low level category of “ineffective” to highest level of “exemplary.“
Coming as a directive from the Kentucky Department of Education, the state-developed “effectiveness system” was chosen for adoption by unanimous vote of the Anderson County school board on Monday night.
According to the Kentucky School Boards Association, about 50 Kentucky school districts will be piloting the state-developed system for the 2013-2014 school year.
Emma B. Ward Elementary is among those pilot schools. According to Instructional Supervisor Sharon Jackman, five to nine teachers at Ward will be measured for their effectiveness based on the PGES system.
Fall 2013 will be the first time Anderson County teachers are evaluated based in part on direct evidence of students’ growth in the classroom.
“The biggest difference is our current system is more of a measurement of whether or not the teacher met the standard or didn’t meet the standard,” Jackman said. “The new system is more focused on development.”
Ward Elementary Principal Amanda Ellis has already passed the training to evaluate teachers using the new system, Jackman said.
 “Student growth” could include students’ MAP test results at the elementary level, Jackman said, or another type of data selected by the teachers when classroom SMART goals are finalized in the beginning of the school year.  
At the Early Childhood Center, Jackman said, student performance could be measured based on students’ DIBELS or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, a formative literacy assessment.
Since the district is about two years away from implementing the teacher effectiveness system, Jackman said she did not know yet what student data would be chosen, and how much that assessment is weighed to evaluate district instructors.  
Much of the information about the system is new to Jackman, she said.
“We have not yet determined what assessments that we currently use for teachers to set their goals,” Jackman said.
The system would also involve “student voice,” a survey (one developed for grades 3-5 and one for grades 6-12) featuring 22 questions such as “My teacher pushes us to think hard about what we read,” with elementary students choosing an answer on spectrum from “No, never” to “Yes, always.”
These student-based assessments are just two parts of PGES, which also weighs principal observation, peer observation, self-reflection and the teacher’s professional growth plan.
Using student test results and surveys to measure teacher performance may be a concern some Anderson County teachers, Jackman said, but Jackman is taking steps to introduce the system’s framework slowly to district staff as PGES is adopted phase by phase.
“Teachers are concerned, and certainly, we’ve got good teachers, and all of us can be better,” Jackman said.
Lisa Hudson, a fifth grade reading teacher at Emma B. Ward Elementary, said she’s not concerned about the student growth assessment or student evaluations because at Ward, student learning goals are frequently discussed with students.
“I know my students,” Hudson said. “I know where they’re at and we have that relationship already where they have a voice in my classroom.”
All Kentucky schools will be adopting the new system for the 2014-2015 school year. Starting in 2014, teacher performance will be an element of the district’s state accountability.
The language of the PGES is precise, Jackman said, and calls for fact-based evidence of teacher performance to be collected and reported as opposed to judgment observations like “the classroom is colorful” or “the students seem engaged. “
“I really think we will all improve our practice, even more than we ever have before, and I’m really excited about that,” she said.
The system, according to KDE, is a requirement for Kentucky’s No Child Left Behind waiver and state’s Race to the Top grant.