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District prepares for changes in teacher evaluations

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By Linda Ireland

The Kentucky Department of Education, in compliance with federal programs, is mandating changes to teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, interim Superintendent Amanda Reed gave a report and answered questions about the new “Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.”
According to the KDE website, the vision for PGES is to “have every student taught by an effective teacher and every school led by an effective principal.”
Part of PGES is being mandated by the state; local options are also being added.
A “50-50” committee has been meeting for several months, looking at ways to implement the changes, said Reed. The group is composed of LaRue County teachers and administrators.
Starting next year, teachers will be assessed on administrator observation, peer observation, self-reflection, professional growth, student growth and student voice.
The peer observation is “100 percent between teachers,” said Reed. The teacher chooses three colleagues from their school, “someone they are comfortable with,” to “collect evidence from the classroom and tie it to standards ….”
The professional growth component is one that has been utilized in some format in LaRue County for years, said Reed.
Self-reflection – which teachers have not done in a “formal way – will be legislated.
Student voice, which will collect survey information from students, is “controversial,” said Reed. There will be short, basic questions, probably 15 in all, for students to answer about class culture and environment – not on teacher personality.
The principal will compile the data which will be funneled back to the state.
Principal evaluation
Abraham Lincoln Elementary School was a pilot school last year for the principal evaluation.
Reed said Principal Karen Osborne and her staff had the benefit of a “practice run” before the PGES is mandated.
According to the KDE website, more than 50 school districts participated in a field test of the new system last year. The tests “allowed educator experience and feedback to inform improvements prior to the statewide pilot during the 2013-14 school year.”
Reed said the evaluation system will be “time consuming” but a lot of the things required are things already in place in the school system.
“That’s why we are where we are,” she said, referring to the district’s excellent test scores.
“I feel they are trying to legislate what we already know is good practice. We’re already doing it … but in different ways.”
Board member Linda Pearman asked if the evaluation was a step toward being “paid according to professional growth.”
“You are talking about merit-based pay,” said Reed, adding the subject has been debated for a while but she has not heard recent updates.
“So that’s not a hidden agenda?” Pearman asked.
“If it is, it’s hidden pretty well,” said Reed.
Reed is filling in during the absence of Superintendent Sam Sanders.
Sanders was suspended without pay after a special called board meeting earlier this month. The move was in response to his being charged with driving while under the influence in a school-owned vehicle in March. Sanders did not attend Monday’s board meeting.
After Reed’s report, the board met for about an hour in closed session but took no action when they returned to open meeting.