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New improvements
Teachers, educators tied to student growth
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Students will see principals and assistant principals walking through classrooms more this school year as they complete requirements for the implementation of new teacher evaluations.

The Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) and Leader Keys Effectiveness System is in its second year in the Newton County School System (NCSS), with this year being the first to include student growth percentiles as a significant factor in teacher evaluations.

The Georgia Student Growth Model, which was released in July, is a tool that allows parents, teachers and the public to see individual students’ growth from year to year compared to other academically similar students across the state.
TKES is a system of multiple measures that provide a stronger assessment of teacher effectiveness than each of the measures alone and than existing measures, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

“It’s a great methodology to help people improve,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “It’s about dialogue.”
One major measure is the Teacher Assessment on Performance Standards (TAPS), which requires classroom observations by principals and assistant principals and documentation of teachers’ practices to demonstrate proficiency.
Teachers have to adhere to 10 standards, which address instructional strategies, assessments and communication.
Fuhrey said this aspect of teacher evaluations will take more time than in past years because of the amount of associated paperwork and time spent visiting each classroom – two formal observations and four walkthroughs of each teacher. But, she said, it has promise to be effective.

This component of TKES provides a “qualitative, rubrics-based evaluation method” to measure teacher performance.
Teachers must also attend an orientation every year and input documentation on standards and proficiency into an electronic platform that interprets adherence to the standards. Principals and assistant principals evaluate teachers, and leaders evaluate principals and assistant principals.

However, standards are only worth half of a teacher’s evaluation. The second 50 percent is based on student growth, which has been quantified in CRCT and EOCT results that have been released throughout the summer.

Fuhrey said this has been concerning to teachers, who may not necessarily like the fact that students’ testing scores directly and largely affect their evaluation. But many results have shown improvements in this year over 2013, and she said the district is working hard to continue those improvements.

With the old evaluation process, student growth was used as an addendum. So it was always part of the equation but more indirectly comparable.

This new system should provide richer information, Fuhrey said, but the process will be more time consuming. Administrators will be spending more time in the classroom to observe teachers, attending conferences and will be more directly involved in the day-to-day classroom.

For teachers who do not have a state standardized assessment, a student learning objective (SLO) will be used as this component, which compares pre- and post-course scores.

Teachers will not be fired at the first glimmer of lack of improvement in students, Fuhrey assured. In the case of underperformance, the district intends to spur better evaluations through support and professional development, creating a plan with each teacher to help him or her accomplish a goal.

“The more help you provide to willing participants,” Fuhrey said, “the more good they can do.”

Continued underperformance can, however, affect a teacher’s contract at the district level and certificate at the state level.

According to HB 244, a teacher who receives “any combination of two unsatisfactory, ineffective or needs development annual summative performance evaluations in the previous five-year period” cannot renew his or her certificate before correcting negative aspects in the evaluation.

One system NCSS plans to use to help cut down on paperwork is that teachers can choose to use video footage of their classroom instruction to substitute for one formal observation. The district already has camera systems in place in middle and high schools, so this is at no additional cost and allows teachers to self-correct their instruction.

“It’s setting the stage to help them improve and give them support resources,” Fuhrey said. “It will provide a dialogue that’s different than before.”