Rockdale County Public School teachers will see a new element in their evaluations this year - student feedback and student test scores.
As part of a growing national trend and a state-wide pilot program tied to Race to the Top, Rockdale County Public School teachers’ and administrators’ evaluations will be partly based on the growth they see in student test scores and in the feedback that students in grades 3-12 give.
“As you can imagine, there's a little bit of anxiety over that,” said Chief Academic Officer Leslie Demarco at the Thursday night Board of Education work session.
“While any new initiative and change is sometimes difficult, it is important that we look at how we evaluate teachers and ensure that every child has the very best teacher we can provide or develop,” she said. “We know a good teacher is the most important thing we can do to support those high levels.”
The system, called Teacher Keys Effectiveness
System, was already in place in Rockdale earlier but without the student growth and feedback element, said Demarco. Rockdale was also part of a smaller pilot program last year where a few teachers at each school were chosen at random.
This year, the system was implemented for all teachers and administrators. However this year will be a “hold harmless” year. The student growth and feedback portion will be measured and collected, but it will not take effect in the HR evaluations.
“The plan is going forward after this year is that it would factor into their evaluation,” said Demarco.
For those who teach subjects that have either End of Course Tests (EOCT) in the high school grades or Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in elementary and middle school grades, the growth will be measured from student performance on those tests.
For teachers that teach subjects not covered in those tests, the district will develop pre- and post- assessment tests.
Board member Don McKinney asked about the wide range of student backgrounds and abilities that teachers face.
“You have hit on the heart of the matter,” said Demarco. “Students do bring different experiences and advantages and disadvantages every year. What I will say is it’s not about absolute scores. It’s about growth. What the system tries to determine is what is the amount of impact the teacher has.”
Georgia received a $400 million federal grant in 2010. Rockdale and 25 other districts signed on as the state's partners and participated in a four-month mini pilot of the evaluation system during the past school year.
State officials are still awaiting a final report on that pilot, but moving ahead with this year's expanded pilot that will involve about 50,000 teachers in 50 school districts.
The original RTTT evaluation system proposed teachers be evaluated under four categories: class observation, student surveys, test scores and narrowing of achievement gaps.
The state has made some changes to the evaluation process, which prompted the U.S. Department of Education in July to declare Georgia at "high risk" of losing $33 million of its $400 million grant.
Other changes includes the state scrapping the idea of having kindergartners and first-and second-graders complete surveys on their teacher's effectiveness.
Superintendent Richard Autry echoed the observation about teacher anxiety over the changes. “I sensed the anxiety even in my own home. My wife is a teacher. But also as I visit and travel through schools.
“What I’ve charged the cabinet with is that we don’t add to it. There’s enough coming down from federal changes and state changes. We need to support teachers as much as we can.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.