Tied to state aid, evaluations begin this spring
By Michael Turton
When it comes to updating its teacher evaluation process, HaldaneCentral School District may be ahead of the learning curve. Teacher evaluations have been in the news a great deal in recent months. In Albany last week, the State Department of Education (NYSED) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) finally reached agreement on revamping the law governing the evaluations. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers have reportedly done the same. In both cases, negotiations have been fractious. It seems that has not been the case at Haldane.
School districts across the state must have performance evaluation procedures in place by September 2012 or face reduced state aid. Haldane School Board trustees actually approved most elements of their district’s new evaluation system in September 2011.On Feb. 15 a special public meeting was held to review Haldane’s updated evaluation process. Referring to the conflict in Albany, Superintendent Mark Villanti said, “We’ve tried to ignore it and just do what’s best for education and fair to staff.”
The only item not yet resolved is the appeals process which is dependent on information yet to be received from Albany. The new system was negotiated between the district and the Haldane Faculty Association (HFA) and once complete will become part of the collective bargaining agreement. As part of Haldane’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) teachers will receive a rating of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective in each of four aspects of teaching: planning and preparation; classroom environment; instruction and professional responsibilities. The result will be a grade out of 100 for each teacher. A grade of 91 – 100 will earn a “highly effective” ranking; 75-90 will be considered “effective”; 65-74 will be described as “developing” and a grade of less than 65 will be deemed “ineffective.”
Haldane officials will have local control over 80 percent of the grade – based on assessment of each teacher’s professional practice and local achievement measures such as testing. State achievement measures account for the other 20 percent. Villanti expressed doubt that the state will come through with its portion of the evaluation in a timely manner. “I doubt that they’ll have it ready in time,” he said. “But let’s forget that. We’re just going to focus on what we have to do in the classroom.” Evaluations will begin this spring – initially for teachers of math and English in grades four through eight, approximately 20 teachers in all. During this first phase, elementary and middle school principal Brent Harrington will be in the unique position of conducting teacher evaluations and being evaluated himself.
According to the detailed Staff Handbook, the APPR system will be a “significant factor in employment decisions” including: retention, tenure, termination, supplemental compensation, promotion, professional development and coaching as they relate to Haldane teachers and principals. Haldane followed a model developed by Charlotte Danielson in creating its new system. Danielson is a former economist and an educational consultant who focuses on teacher evaluation, curriculum planning, performance assessment and professional development. She also taught at levels ranging from kindergarten through college, and has worked as an administrator and director of curriculum. A number of state-approved evaluation models were available to districts to choose from. High school Principal Brian Alm said that the Danielson method was selected because it is, “…the most tried and true and is based on 16 years of research. It is rooted in good teaching and learning – and not just evaluation.”
The APPR Committee consists of Alison Casey, special education teacher; Simon Dudar, third-grade teacher; Nancy Martinez-Cirelli, high school English teacher; Julia Sniffen, K-8 assistant principal, Alm and Villanti. To a person, committee members commented on how positive the process had been in drafting the new evaluation system. “We’ve done what the state imposed – but made it uniquely Haldane,” Casey said. Villanti said that the process Haldane is adopting has received praise from other districts, in particular for its “outside the box” thinking in developing the locally controlled portions of the evaluation system.
At the outset of the meeting Board President Joe Curto said that the new APPR, “…is extremely important. I was hoping there would be a lot of people out.” He must have been disappointed. Excluding reporters, teachers and administration, the audience consisted of only two or three residents.