State mandates teacher evaluation system

HUGHESVILLE – Administrators at East Lycoming School District discussed the pros and cons of the state Department of Education’s new teacher evaluation system at a Tuesday night board meeting.

The evaluation system, part of the state Educator Effectiveness Project, will require a minimum of eight hours per teacher to complete – time some felt could be better spent preparing curriculum.

“It seems like all of this is eroding the quality of instruction,” board Treasurer Donna Gavitt said.

“We’re constantly concerned with lack of time,” Superintendent Michael Pawlick said. “Like everything else, it’s not completely perfect but we’re going to make it work.”

Teachers will be evaluated based on a four-point rubric that includes assessments of their planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities. The final score also will be based on a building level assessment that ranges from zero to 107.

“In order to achieve 107 you’d have to have perfect attendance. It truly is impossible to receive a perfect score,” Pawlick said.

Earned points are added together and put it into a mathematical formula to determine a total score ranging from zero to three, with zero being a failing teacher and three being a distinguished teacher. Only teachers with five or more students will be evaluated, although criteria for number of students depends on teacher-student interaction time.

“If I’m a special education teacher with 10 students for which I have 40 percent responsibility, that only adds up to four total students so I don’t get an evaluation,” Pawlick said.

Gavitt pointed out that the evaluation system isn’t equitable as some teachers will have a larger data set. Pawlick agreed that the system wasn’t necessarily fair.

“Is it a better representative sample to have 125 or five students? We need to go into this knowing that we have good staff members and sometimes kids do incredibly well one year and not-so-well the next. Our teachers are more than a number,” Pawlick said.

Teachers become a number when their performance is reduced to a data set and sent to the state, Gavitt said.

“I understand what you’re saying but it’s coming, we can’t fight it, so we have to work with it,” Hughesville High School Principal Ron Lorson said, adding that the new system will increase communication between teachers and principals.

Principals will do classroom walk-throughs and have multiple sit-down discussions with teachers to identify areas for improvement. Action plans will be developed to address any performance deficits. Only those teachers with failing scores will have their data sent to the state.

“We could go into this saying it’s a terrible thing but when the king sneezes everyone catches a cold,” Pawlick said.