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Hillsborough School Board get first look Monday at new teacher evaluation spurred by Gates grant

TAMPA — The documents aren't much to look at, just lists of check boxes describing the work of effective teachers.

But during a workshop Monday, members of the Hillsborough County School Board will get their first look at the evaluation system they hope will revolutionize the way teachers are hired — and fired — and set a new nationwide standard.

The documents will be used to rate every teacher and principal as part of the district's $202 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This week the 113 veterans who will take on the full-time role of mentoring and evaluating their peers were named. And every teacher in the district will also rate their principal. Officials hope the system will provide a rich trove of data on who's excelling — and who's falling short.

"We have to get more honest, without dehumanizing the process," said project director David Steele.

Applications obtained Friday by the St. Petersburg Times for those jobs — "peer evaluators" to rate veterans and "mentor evaluators" to rate and support new teachers — paint a portrait of a highly collaborative group of veteran teachers who have taken the initiative to share what they've learned over the years.

"I enjoy helping others find the tools they need in order to be successful in the classroom," wrote Christy L. Chandler, a teacher at Broward Elementary in Tampa who has a degree in special education.

Richard Charles Kearney, a sixth-grade math teacher at Walker Middle School in Odessa wrote: 'Collaborating with your peers also allows you to gain more insight on teaching strategies that they have found to be successful."

The job carries a $5,000 stipend, and teachers are expected to return to the classroom after two or three years.

To qualify, applicants needed at least five years of teaching experience and outstanding evaluations. Other criteria included evidence of leadership skills, effective use of student data and experience mentoring or guiding colleagues.

Woodrow Samuel II, an English teacher at Sligh Middle School in Tampa, said he began mentoring when he was 17 — and hasn't stopped since.

He has worked with both students and peers for years while coaching boy's basketball and baseball, wrote Samuel in his application. He also has helped student-teachers grow in the profession, he said, and assisted fellow teachers at his school.

"Mentoring has literally become a part of my very fabric," Samuel said.

Brandi R. Bartkiewicz, a fourth grade teacher at Schwarzkopf Elementary in Lutz, noted that experience has taught her that teachers need to be able to go to each other for advice and ideas.

"Teachers need opportunities to talk and collaborate with each other to best serve their students, to make their work more meaningful, and to transform schooling in a way that keeps it vibrant and relevant," she wrote.

She and the other mentor and peer evaluators will need every ounce of their experience in their new roles, Steele said.

Mentors and evaluators will observe teachers up to eight times a year if they need it, he said, with principals observing teachers one to three times a year. Each visit must be followed up with a conference.

And even though teachers will be rated on a smaller number of criteria — down to 22 from the current 45 — there's a lot of ground to cover in the new system, which was developed under a contract with evaluation expert Charlotte Danielson.

Peer evaluators will focus particularly on classroom skills, such as lesson preparation, assessment of student learning, clarity and behavior management. Principals will focus more on teachers' other responsibilities, such as communicating with parents, "showing professionalism" and maintaining records.

Principal ratings will count for 30 percent of teachers' final score. Forty percent will be determined using a three-year average of student test scores or other performance measures, and peer evaluators will be responsible for the final 30 percent.

Eventually, those ratings will be used to place new teachers on a merit-based salary schedule. They'll also guide decisions on granting tenure and promotion, demotion or termination.

Principals will be under new pressure. They'll need to spend more full periods observing teachers rather than popping through dozens of classrooms doing spot checks, Steele said. And they'll be rated partly on the quality of that work.

"Fewer teachers are going to get a perfect evaluation," he predicted.

It's a far cry from the current principal-driven evaluation system, which in 2008 rated just 0.6 percent of the district's 12,500 teachers as unsatisfactory or needing improvement.

Principals also will find out how they're doing as teachers rate them, submitting anonymous evaluations online.

"Every instructional person at the school does it," Steele said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

How peer evaluators touted themselves

The 113 Hillsborough teachers who will serve as peer evaluators and mentors under the district's seven-year reform effort with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were named this week. They were culled from a pool of more than 600 of the district's top teachers. Below are excerpts of some of the answers teachers provided to the four essay questions/statements on the applications they had to fill out:

Describe your mentoring experiences, both formal and informal.

"I still invite teachers into my classroom with their class for a co-teach lesson using technology. Knowing reflection is vital, I met with them after lessons to discuss what went well, what didn't go well, and where do we go from here."

Kathryn Carolyn Bateham, fourth-grade teacher at Lake Magdalene Elementary School, Tampa

Describe a time you used data to plan and deliver instruction.

"I was able to look at the scores of my students and discover trends of which concepts were solid already, and which ones proved more challenging. Due to this data, I have increased the rigor of my music listening activities to best meet the academic needs of my students.

Carolyn F. Switalski, a national board certified music teacher at Just Elementary School, Tampa

Describe your experience in collaborating with others.

While working as a team member and leader I relied on my team members and tapped them in their areas of strength. We organized educational field trips, team conferences, parent conferences, student schedules, academic incentive parties, end of the year field days, and other activities to build a team and raise student achievement."

Terrasa E. Rafferty, social studies teacher, Coleman Middle School, Tampa

Describe a time that you assumed a leadership role (either formal or informal) at the school or district level.

"I have worked with both master teachers and teachers needing much support. I have completed formal and informal observations of their classroom teaching. … My teachers know that I am always available when they have questions or problems, and that I won't criticize them when they need assistance but will work with them to find a solution to the problem."

Patricia A. Kessler, a Latin teacher and department chair at

Newsome Senior High School, Lithia

Source: Hillsborough County School District

Hillsborough School Board get first look Monday at new teacher evaluation spurred by Gates grant

05/14/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 15, 2010 1:20am]

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