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Superintendent airs concerns on new teacher evaluation system
School system to take $8M tax anticipation note
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IN BRIEF: Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Autry expressed concerns on how the state's proposed teacher evaluation system would fairly evaluate teachers of subjects that are not covered by standard state-wide tests and how it would affect personnel and bonus decisions.

The state's proposed Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEMS) and Leader Effectiveness Measure (LEMS) is slated to go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year. In the proposed system, about half of the teacher's evaluation score would be based on student test scores and student progress.

However, about 70 percent of teachers across the state teach subjects that are not covered by state-wide standardized tests such as the CRCT or End of Course tests. To determine a teacher's evaluation in those cases, the system would use locally developed pre- and post-tests to determine a student's achievement and progress.

"If they're locally developed who determines if they're valid and reliable?" asked Autry.

If the pre- and post-tests for a subject in one county are easier than the pre- and post-tests developed in another county, how can the state fairly compare the evaluations of the teachers in the two systems and make bonus pay decisions based on the evaluation scores, said Autry.

Another concern is the difficulty in developing that many tests.

RCPS has participated in a pilot program for a teacher evaluation program similar to the TEMS/LEMS program. Even so, said Autry, "We struggled mightly to develop 200, 300 pre and post tests for our teachers."

"It is not my intent to say we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We've made some great strides with accountability... this has some areas that need to be reaerched a bit further, validated a bit further," before personnel decisions and pay decisions are made, he said.

In other school board business:

Rockdale County Public Schools school board unanimously approved taking a $8 million tax anticipation note until funds from tax collections come in at the end of the year. The loan, issued from Suntrust at a a 0.94 percent interest rate, runs from September and matures December 31, 2013.

Finance Director Lee Davis said, "Last year, we did it for $8.5 million and we got a rate of .98. This year it's .94."

"Usually what happens is when we get the November tax collections, we pay off that first week in December," he said.

This is the third consecutive year of doing a TAN, and the prior recent TANS have been paid off early. Davis said these days, with school budgets being tight across the state, taking a TAN is common for school systems.