On Sunday, the AJC ran another installment in its ongoing teacher quality series.
(The AJC is making this occasional series on teacher quality available only to subscribers. You can read the full article by picking up a copy of Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Here is a link to the AJC digital options, including an E-subscription, which gives you the actual paper online.)
This latest installment by AJC ed writer Jaime Sarrio focused on a new evaluation approach under way in City Schools of Decatur that relies heavily on teacher observations and measuring academic progress. The story notes that Decatur’s own testing shows students are learning more in one year than they did in 2009 when the first real changes to evaluations were introduced. SAT scores are rising. And there has been an increase in the number of teachers who were not rehired after their contracts expired.
In its ongoing teacher quality series, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found that Georgia has spent billions on improving teachers over the past decade with little evidence of success. In 2011, only 628 of Georgia’s 114,248 teachers received unsatisfactory job evaluations.
Now, state and local leaders are looking to revamped teacher evaluations as the next big fix.
According to the story:
City Schools of Decatur, a 3,250-student district, is among the first Georgia systems taking a different approach to rating teachers, one that recognizes some teachers are better than others and scores them accordingly. Similar changes are headed to school districts across Georgia in the coming years.
The goal is to build a better teaching workforce by getting help to those who need it, learning from those who don’t and firing those who are beyond repair. “It’s in the middle of everything we do, rather than a necessary evil, ” said Decatur Associate Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen, who oversees the evaluation process.
Some Georgia districts have updated evaluation procedures, with more to come over the next three years under Race to the Top, a federal grant competition that’s triggered significant changes to public education in states across the country. Georgia will use some of the $400 million winnings to pilot its new evaluation tool in 26 districts, with the intention of taking it statewide in coming years. It will rate teachers heavily on student performance and observations, and use the outcome of those evaluations to determine how teachers are trained, paid, promoted — or fired.
Decatur teachers are required to demonstrate their effectiveness throughout the school year using copies of lesson plans, classroom observations and conferences with administrators. Teachers are graded on 26 goals, which touch on everything from knowledge of curriculum to use of technology. How much a student learns is a factor — the district looks at how much a teacher’s students are growing academically each year, and uses those results to set performance goals and make decisions about job assignments.
Observing teachers in the classroom is the cornerstone of the district’s work. Decatur trained district and school leaders on how to observe teachers, requiring teams of two educators to watch a lesson for 15 minutes at least twice a year. The team shares notes on what it saw and emails the teacher the same day with feedback on how to improve.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog