Beginning this fall, teachers in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District will be evaluated under a new pilot program that will include ongoing mini-observations throughout the school year, instead of an annual or biannual review as is typical in most districts.
Teacher Susan Petersen feels the process will allow administrators to provide important and relevant feedback on a more consistent and continuous basis.
“The concept is collaborative in nature. That helps teachers foster and nurture the instructional strategies, classroom management and essential elements that are important for student learning,” she said. “This new system will help educators become open to sharing ideas and best practices.”
Local teacher evaluations have come under review in recent years as educators in other states have agreed to a shift in the way they are reviewed.
Currently, California teachers are evaluated by an administrator, typically a principal. The frequency is based on the number of years a teacher has worked for the district and whether they’ve received an unsatisfactory evaluation in the past.
Under state law, those with more than 10 years experience are only required to be reviewed every five years.
Teachers who receive one or more “unsatisfactory” or “needs to improve” recommendations on their previous evaluation are placed on a professional improvement plan — but rarely does that progress to termination.
Last school year, nine of the district’s 209 teachers were on an improvement plan.
Last fall, Superintendent Karen Schauer said the district was working to move away from what she then termed “a dog and pony show,” where an administrator came into a classroom on a set date.
Petersen said the current evaluation system does not help educators develop their craft.
“Once or twice a year (depending on your tenure status), an administrator would announce that he or she would be coming in to evaluate your classroom management, classroom procedures and your lesson. Teachers would plan a fantastic lesson, or not. The administrator would write a glowing evaluation, or not, and (then) provide feedback.”
Petersen didn’t feel the one-shot system captured the true essence of what was happening in the classroom.
“What if the teacher was having a bad day or, more likely, a child or children? Would that be a fair assessment of how you perform as a teacher?” she said.
“Or on the flip side, the teacher only has one great lesson all year long and it happens to be during the evaluation time? Would that be a fair evaluation of that teacher?” she said. “This system does not allow for me as teacher to improve my craft by keeping me isolated in my room doing the same things that may be ineffective for student learning.”
The mini-observation concept does the opposite by allowing a supervisor to observe a teacher at any time. The idea comes from the work of Kim Marshal, who wrote the book “Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation.”
The district’s new procedures will serve as a pilot for the 2012-13 school year.
The new teachers’ union contract, approved by the school board late last month, also includes new differentiated evaluation procedures depending on the teachers’ years of service and performance.
“I believe that teaching is an art, which needs to be developed,” Petersen said. “This will help all of us reach our potential. That is what an evaluation system should do.”