By Madelynn Coldiron
School board members got a crash course in Kentucky’s new teacher and principal evaluation processes – officially called the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System – at a clinic during KSBA’s annual conference.
The system shares some similarities with the current one, but the biggest difference is that the new system focuses on helping educators, Donna Brockman, a KSBA policy consultant, told clinic attendees.
“It’s about how are we giving teachers feedback along the way so they can improve,” she said.
PHOTO: KSBA policy consultant Donna Brockman answers questions during the clinic session.
The system, required by the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, uses multiple measures of effectiveness. Among the new elements incorporated in the PGES are peer observations, formal teacher self-reflection, student growth and student voices. Brockman said the rationale for the latter is research that shows “the most valid method of finding out if a teacher is effective is to ask the kids … they know if they’re learning.”
The new system will produce “a consistent understanding of what good teaching looks like” statewide, said Felicia Cumings Smith, associate commissioner at the state education department. It also dovetails with the state’s college and career readiness initiatives.
At this point, about 50 school districts across the state are piloting the system. Next school year, all districts will have to “field test” the system with a minimum of five to nine teachers across different disciplines. Full implementation begins in 2014-15.
Local boards have some responsibilities in ensuring the success of the new system, according to Brockman and Smith. These include:
• Set clear and high expectations that are communicated clearly to all educators
• Create conditions for success to support teachers and leaders and ensuring the district has what it needs to provide training, implementation and monitoring of the system.
• Hold the system accountable by supporting the work, and tracking data and training.
• Create the public will to succeed, sharing progress with the community and getting feedback from teachers and leaders.
• Learn about the new system as a board team and follow its progress.
“As we determine, how we figure out, effectiveness in our teachers and leaders, districts will then be able to make strategic decisions about equitable distribution, about improvement and about retention,” Smith said.
The system, she said, is “more of component in a human capital management strategy.”
Gallatin County Schools Superintendent Dorothy “Dot” Perkins related the experience her district has had piloting PGES for both teachers and principals. She warned attendees that the training principals must receive to conduct the teacher evaluations is “very rigorous and challenging,” requiring extra time for them, which is a concern. On the other hand, she said, “This is not more time for a teacher.”
Overall, Perkins said the new model has met with no resistance in her district and that her teachers “absolutely love” it.
“This system is much better; we like it. It is a coaching model. It is a mentoring model,” she said.