New teacher evaluation focuses on growth

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A new teacher evaluation pilot program is focusing on growth and development, one Columbia teacher said.

"I think this model is much more focused on growth, rather than just simply evaluating where you are," said Kim Nuetzmann, a mentor teacher at Parkade Elementary School who was involved in the program's development.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has developed the new Educator Evaluation System over the past few years. It is part of the department’s Top 10 by 20 plan, an effort to improve student achievement in Missouri and rank among the top 10 states by 2020.

Currently, Missouri is ranked 27th nationally in its average ACT composite score with 21.6, an average that has not risen for 10 years.

The new system focuses not only on teachers but also principals and superintendents, said Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The department has spent less than $90,000 to develop the new system, Potter said.

"We've done this very efficiently with a lot of volunteers, and we really appreciate all the educators who have helped with this process," she said.

Potter said this system will set a model for the rest of the state to follow. Public school districts can choose whether to adopt the Educator Evaluation System or develop their own systems that adhere to seven principles of effective evaluation.

These principles include ongoing and timely feedback for educators and regular training for evaluators.

Nuetzmann coordinates the new teacher and mentor program for Columbia Public Schools and conducted a field test of the new evaluation format with a small group of teachers.

"The teachers were very receptive to it and saw it as a tool of how to improve their practice," Nuetzmann said.

She said Columbia Public Schools already do a nice job focusing on growth, but education is constantly changing, so it is important to regularly examine how it is measured.

The current Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation system hasn’t been revisited on a state level for around 10 years, Nuetzmann said.

"This model really focuses on the continuous development of the educator," said Karla Eslinger, assistant commissioner for the state Office of Educator Quality. "It allows teachers to say, 'This is where I’m at, what do I need to do next to improve?'"

Columbia Missouri National Education Association President Susan McClintic said her association welcomes stringent evaluations for teachers as long as teachers are a part of the discussion.

"We welcome evaluation as long as it’s fair and equal," McClintic said.

She said the new system probably wouldn’t be vastly different than what Columbia Public Schools already has in place.

"Educators are the ones who came up with this system," Potter said.

She said her department is inviting as many school districts as possible to participate in the pilot program this fall.

The main goal of the pilot program is to receive feedback and identify any current holes in the system before it is fully implemented the following school year, Potter said.

"This is a pilot project," Potter said. "This isn’t anything set in stone. We will be doing a lot of listening.”

federal waiver was approved Friday granting Missouri flexibility from No Child Left Behind requirements. This will give the state authority to use its own accountability system and evaluation tools without adhering to federal requirements.

Potter said this will help simplify the evaluation process.

The state's public school systems will now have the option to either adopt this new evaluation model or create one that meets the seven principles.

The department will officially open signups at the 51st annual Cooperative Conference for School Administrators taking place July 29-31 in Columbia.

Eslinger said 174 school districts used various components of the evaluation system during its development, and she expects a similar number to take part in the pilot program.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said Columbia Public Schools will decide later this summer whether to participate in the program.

"As a district, we’re going to be looking at implementing a new evaluation program," Baumstark said.

She said the district would likely look at some key components of the pilot program and integrate those into its current system.

Baumstark said a team will meet later this summer to work on the district’s performance-based evaluation framework. The district typically updates its Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation each year.

"You always want to be continually improving," Baumstark said. "Our evaluation system is constantly being revised, and that’s a normal process for us."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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