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Student Performance to Weigh More in Teacher Evaluations

State mandates academic progress account for 40 percent of county's evaluation system

Starting this fall, Fairfax County teachers will be evaluated under a new system that weighs student academic progress as 40 percent of their overall ratings.

The shift comes as part of new Virginia Department standards and evaluation criteria for teacher performance localities must approve by July 1 of this year.

For several months, the 40 percent was only a recommendation, said Fairfax Education Association President Michael Hairston, who sat on the state workgroup that addressed the issue.

But a June 1 press release about the state’s second attempt at a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements indicated to Fairfax officials that amount was mandatory.  

“There’s a lot of angst. There’s a lot of concern from teachers,” Hairston said.

The new system will rate teachers on student academic progress and six other performance categories, including professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of and for learning, learning environment and professionalism.

For each of them, teachers will be rated “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing/needs improvement,” or ineffective. Eventually, those terms will get a numerical value — from 4 to 1, for example, from best to worst — to calculate an overall score.

Several board members expressed concern about the new weighting, particularly for teachers who may be working with more diverse or low-achieving populations.

“We have a genuine fear out there we have to address or we will have a best teacher flight from our neediest [areas] to schools where the population is … less diverse and difficult,” Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon) said.  

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steve Greenburg said he was “disgusted” the U.S. Department Of Education, which rejected the state’s first application, would leverage 40 percent as part of a waiver agreement. 

Greenburg, a member of a teacher evaluation task force appointed last fall to redesign Fairfax County’s evaluation process, said the committee worked quickly and transparently, despite a tight timeline from VDOE, but ultimately its hands were tied to a percentage to which it didn’t necessarily agree.

Tying student performance to teacher evaluation is something districts have wrestled with locally and nationally for years, spurred largely by “dropout factories,” which is the 10 percent of high schools that account for half of students nationwide who drop out, Deputy Superintendent Richard Moniuszko said.

While much of Virginia doesn’t see rates that high, it and most other states have been pressured to give more weight to how well students are performing.

Currently, teachers are currently evaluated on 22 "indicators," all of which are given equal weight, Greenburg said.

Moniuszko said teachers won’t be limited to SOL scores when setting student progress expectations each year. Instead, they’ll be trained to write “SMART (Strategic and Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result-oriented and Time-bound) goals with their evaluators to set “reasonable expectations” for themselves and their students, he said.

An elementary school teacher could aim for all students to read on or above grade level by the end of the school year, for instance; an 11th-grade English teacher could aim to have 75 percent of students score four points or better on their expository or persuasive writing samples.

If a teacher fails to reach their goal on student academic performance, it won’t necessarily translate to a “needs improvement” for that category, Moniuszko said.

“This is not, you either get the 40 percent or you fail. We've set up this system [to allow flexibility,” he said, noting goals would be revisited frequently throughout the year.

All 15,000 employees affected by the changes will go through an orientation about the new system, said Phyllis Pajardo, assistant superintendent for human resources. The 6,000 teachers typically evaluated each year — including newer professionals evaluated annually for their first three years, veteran teachers up for contract renewal and those with part-time and one-year contracts — will be given more specific training, she said.

Full implementation will likely cost the system $600,000, Moniuszko said. The system will also have to select an implementation team of two teachers and two principals to carry out the changes. Members will be identified in early July.

“It’s essential we try to communicate this is not something that is done to you, it is something you are a part of,” Mary Kay Downes, a member of the task force and past president of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators.

Laurie Dodd June 12, 2012 at 12:03 PM
<“It’s essential we try to communicate this is not something that is done to you, it is something you are a part of,” Mary Kay Downes, a member of the task force and past president of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators.> Yet the article reports that the redesign of the Fairfax teacher evaluation proposed by the local committee was rejected in order to adopt the scheme in which measures of student performance account for 40% of the total rating. Was the development of the evaluation criteria something that was done to Fairfax county, rather than something the local team was a true part of?
Michele June 12, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I have mixed feelings about this, as teachers cannot control everything about the way children learn. On the other hand, my son took a class that was supposed to be an honors class that would enable the kids to take the SOL for the next grade level up instead of their current grade. Although my son got Bs in the class, he failed the SOL. Horribly. Apparently, not one kid in his class passed it! If he had been getting Cs or Ds, I would expect a failure on the SOL. but he had a solid B average in class. That is NOT acceptable, and set him up for a very hard time as our SOL grades come back so late (why so late I don't understand) that he had already signed up for advanced classes for the next year, and had a VERY hard time, as he did not have the basics that he needed to succeed! If not one kid in the class had the knowledge needed to pass the SOL, that IS a teaching failure, and needs to be addressed.....
Kim June 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Note to self: teach only gifted kids. Let the slower learners be someone else's problem. Is this the attitude we want in our teachers? Seems to be.
Sandra June 12, 2012 at 03:30 PM
This type of evaluation might seem like it would be useful, but in reality it wouldn't necessarily prove anything. My child had a teacher that was absolutely horrible and didn't teach a thing, yet the students in his class did okay because they all either had their parents teaching them at home, or their parents paid for tutors to teach their kids. A teacher like that might have kids reaching their goals and so get a decent evaluation, when in reality he/she is awful. This was not a newbie either, but someone who had been around for years.
Louise Epstein June 12, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I hope FCPS administrators focus on value added by a teacher for each student taught, not just at the aggregate percentage of the teacher's students who pass or score pass advanced on an SOL test. If a student improves from 3 years below grade level to 1 year below grade level in one school year, that teacher has been very effective in teaching that student. Conversely, if a student starts and ends the year 1 year above grade level, the teacher hasn't been effective with that student. It's possible that these two students are in the same classroom with the same teacher. Does this mean that the teacher is effective, mediocre, or ineffective?
Erica R. Hendry June 12, 2012 at 05:09 PM
More from the meeting: Dan Storck asked staff what they were doing to encourage teachers to stay at real or perceived "difficult" schools; others worried teachers there would fear for job security. Staff said they wanted to stress the goals would be based on where the students are, and where they reasonably could go. They also said they do things at those schools to create a better work environment -- more teachers per class, for instance, which creates a lower student to teacher ratio.
Mag Pi June 12, 2012 at 05:16 PM
What percentage of student performance is on the Leadership of FCPS' evaluation?
Mag Pi June 12, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Specifically, the Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and the Cluster Directors??? I bet zero.
Employee September 05, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Yes but not one teacher but all of his teachers. This process is a failure.
Michele September 06, 2012 at 12:13 AM
it was a specific class. He did great in all other subjects. (As and Bs)
Barbara Glakas September 06, 2012 at 12:44 PM
All students can learn, but socioeconomic status predicts outcome on academic scores probably more than any other factor. Class size also has a big impact. Based on norms, race can also be an indicator (based on statistical demographics). Then there are other factors, such as the literacy level of the parents. All these things are out of the teacher’s control. If teachers want to nearly guarantee that their students will get good scores on standardized tests, then those teachers should have only small classes with all rich kids. The problem is that the state is trying to impose a business model onto an educational model. In the business world, if an employee underperforms, an employer can fire that employee. Teachers cannot fire their students.
Employee September 06, 2012 at 01:01 PM
This just pushes teachers further away from kids. Like NCLB, teachers will be focused on data. We will need to save data data data. Unless parents stand up for this,our education system will fall short and the need for teachers will increase. It is bad enough we live in a data driven society with these ridiculous SOLs. We manufacture test takers....this limits our ability in class the be creative and engaging and you can't tell me otherwise. I never said it stops us, but limits us. Do your part as parents and step up.
Albert Wilson November 08, 2012 at 04:08 AM
The American Enterprise Institute made these recommendations as schools start the teacher evaluation "binge": Be clear about the problems new evaluation systems are intended to solve. Do not mistake processes and systems as substitutes for cultural change. Look at the entire education ecosystem, including broader labor-market impacts, pre- and in-service preparation, standards and assessments, charter schools, and growth of early childhood education and innovative school models. Focus on improvement, not just deselection. Encourage and respect innovation. Think carefully about waivers versus umbrellas. Do not expect legislation to do regulation’s job. Create innovation zones for pilots—and fund them
Roberto February 28, 2013 at 12:31 AM
We are so smart tring to keep up with the world we're forgetting how we got to being the best. Knowing the three basic primary subjects (Reading, Writing & Arithmetic) and the two social subjects Arts & PE. If the 1st thru 6 grades don't get them to learn and understand these subjects the children are lost in the higher grades = dropout or failing to understand life choices. No matter who are what you come if the children the basics they will find their calling. To much is forced into the hours of school and the hours after for most children they like their parents have a great number of things to do to live a fruitfull life.
Roberto February 28, 2013 at 12:33 AM
No matter who are or what or where you come from, if the children the basics they will find their calling.
Roberto February 28, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Learn...I'll clean the notes up before sumitting next time...

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