A new teacher evaluation process emphasizes self-assessment, with surveys of students offering a sometimes eye-opening perspective to New London teachers.
Two administrators, Jo Collar and Joe Green, described the second pilot year of new teacher performance evaluations that the state will require public schools to implement in 2014-15.
They said the self-evaluation encourages teachers to reflect on their strengths, areas in which they need to improve, and strategies for improvement.
Board members at the Monday, Sept. 24, meeting described the process as a boon to the professionalism of career teachers.
Kim Schroeder said how to evaluate teachers has been an issue since she has been on the board.
New London has taken a pro-active approach to the new state requirements.
“We spent three years training for this,” said Superintendent Kathy Gwidt, who was director of teaching and learning until this year.
Last year, the district piloted part of the evaluation model offered by CESA 6.
The self-assessments, along with supervisor or mentor comments, notes from classroom observations, and other information, are filed online. Staff can access the forms from home as well as school, Collar said.
Evaluations consider teachers’ knowledge, classroom environment, and student learning objectives.
“Smart” goals — which may be individual, grade level, subject, building-wide or team goals — go beyond simply saying, for example, “I want to use technology more in my classroom,” said Green, who moved this year from principal at the New London Intermediate/Middle School to the top job at Parkview Elementary School.
Now, teachers need to say why more technology is necessary, and how they plan to incorporate it into their classroom.
As an example of building goals, Green noted that all elementary schools are focused on literacy.
“We know reading is an area of concern,” he said.
The student surveys, new last year, allow teachers to take feedback and reflect on what the kids say.
“I saw people change what they were doing, based on surveys,” Green said.
Gwidt noted that one non-core teacher, offended that students thought the class was too easy, began questioning and talking to them differently.
“I do think last year it was kind of an eye-opener to staff,” said Collar, in her first year as director of teaching and learning. She left the position of Parkview principal to move into the curriculum job.
Board member Virginia Schlais said students provide valuable data that has been ignored too long.
The evaluation process includes classroom observations and feedback every year. Teachers can attach documentation of their work beyond what is specified on evaluation forms.
A formal “summative” evaluation is done every three years. Teachers are rated as distinguished; effective; developing/needs improvement; or unacceptable.
“We want our teachers to be effective,” Collar said.