Board OKs changes to evaluation plan

REGION 16 — After seeing a new teacher evaluation plan in practice, Region 16 officials have revised the process for the coming school year.

Evaluating teachers is nothing new in Region 16 or school districts across the state. However, in 2012 the state Board of Education approved the Connecticut Guidelines for Educator Evaluation to align with federal mandates and create a uniform evaluation process for teachers and administrators throughout the state.

The state supplied a blueprint and foundation for the evaluations, but school districts were given some control over how to construct their plans.

Forty percent of each teacher’s evaluation is based on data collected from observations. Ten percent is based on parent feedback on surveys, while 5 percent is based on student feedback on surveys. The remaining 45 percent is comprised of student learning measures, or student growth, which includes standardized test scores.

The use of standardized test scores has been suspended for the coming school year as the state transitions to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to align with the Common Core standards.

Curriculum Director Barbara Peck said this will give teachers and students more time to adjust to the new test.

“It’s a shift. It’s a definite shift,” she said.

The 2013-14 school year was the first year in which districts had to have their new plans in place.

Long River Middle School Principal Jayne Lanphear, who has been working with the committee that developed the plan, said how teachers are evaluated is reviewed annually.

After seeing the new plan in action, Lanphear said, some areas were identified where it can be refined.

Lanphear and Curriculum Director Barbara Peck presented a handful of changes to the Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, at its July 16 meeting. The board approved the changes the same night.

The changes include collapsing the number of domains teachers are evaluated in from six to four. The four domains are classroom environment, student engagement and commitment to learning, planning, instruction as well as professional responsibility and teacher leadership.

Last year’s plan included assessments and essential skills as the two other domains. The assessments domain has been folded into another domain, Lanphear and Peck said. Teachers should already have essential skills when they come to the district, they added.

The number of “indicators of effective practice,” what administrators look for when observing teachers, has also been reduced from 35 to 12.

The number of indicators was cut to reduce redundancies, Lanphear said.

How points are assigned within the rating system has also been changed.

Previously, the total points were distributed evenly among the four levels of performance — below standard, developing, proficient and exemplary.

Lanphear said doing it this way could skew a teacher’s rating, for better or worse. She said an equal distribution didn’t offer an accurate description of a teacher’s performance and practice since other pieces come into play, like parent surveys.

A change was made that distributes the points more along a bell curve with more weight given in the developing and proficient ratings.

“With the bell curve it helps to define where the teacher really is functioning,” Lanphear said.