Plum testing new teacher evaluation system

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Teacher evaluations in Pennsylvania are changing.

The Plum School District is part of a pilot program that during the school year is evaluating about 30 of its 270 teachers under a new system that takes into account not only observation of teachers in the classroom but also student performance.

“This is a big shift,” Assistant Superintendent Guy Rossi told Plum School Board members during last week's education committee meeting.

The new evaluation system replaces the satisfactory and unsatisfactory ratings that teachers had received through observation by principals.

The new categories are: distinguished, proficient, needs improvement and failing, Rossi said.

Rossi said 50 percent of a teacher's rating will be based upon observation, including a teacher's preparation and instruction.

Also, 15 percent of the evaluation will be gleaned from building level data including student test scores, graduation rates, attendance and advanced placement course preparation.

Another 15 percent of the rating will be from teacher-specific data including student progress.

Rossi said 20 percent of the evaluation is elective data determined by local school districts and could include performance on student projects and portfolios.

Plum School Board President Andrew Drake suggested a portion of the evaluation should focus on feedback from parents and students. Rossi said the component could be a part of the elective data.

Carolyn Dumaresq, acting state secretary of education, said in 2011 that teachers should be held accountable for student performance.

“Teacher quality should be based on a proven tool that measures a teacher's impact on student achievement,” Dumaresq said during testimony before the state Department of Education's education committee.

Dumaresq said statewide data from the 2009-10 school year showed that 99.4 percent of all rated teachers received a “satisfactory” rating.

“We believe that these results show the need to have a broad, multi-measure evaluation system to measure performance and effectiveness,” Dumaresq said. “What these results tell us more than anything else is that our current data evaluation system is not up to the task of addressing the needs of today's demands.”

Plum High School Principal Ryan Kociela said during last week's meeting that the new evaluation process includes a couple more steps including conducting a conference with a teacher before an observation and writing a report in addition to the observation and a post conference with a teacher.

“It takes a lot of time,” Kociela said. “It is two additional steps. The (observation) tool is more detailed.”

Rossi said teachers who rate in the “needs improvement” and “failing” categories would be placed on improvement plans.

Rossi expects the evaluation system to go into effect for all teachers when a new teacher contract is approved. The current contract expires on Aug. 31, 2014.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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