Pinellas may expand teacher evaluations

The new system places more emphasis on observations than it does test scores.
Published October 27 2015
Updated October 27 2015

The Pinellas County School Board will vote Tuesday on the expansion of an evaluation system that would require more observation of teachers and noninstructional school staff, and rely less on test scores.

At a School Board workshop meeting Oct. 20, district officials proposed shifting from the Pinellas County Schools Teacher evaluation system to the Pilot Marzano Teacher Evaluation System for the 2015-16 school year. A test program using the new evaluation method began with five schools in 2013 and grew to 21 schools in 2014.

The Marzano system requires teachers undergo a minimum of four observations by the principal, three of which can be informal evaluations. These would be 10- to 20-minute unannounced classroom visits, with feedback. They would also have at least one formal scheduled visit that is at least 30 minutes long, with conferences before and afterward. Probationary or first-year teachers would require a minimum of two formal visits.

Under the district's current system, a minimum of one observation is required, two for probationary or first-year teachers.

Lou Cerreta, director of the district's professional development, said the new system allows for more feedback.

"If we're going to improve practice and how people grow, it's important to observe and give people feedback," he said.

The proposed teachers' evaluations, pending state approval, would be made up of three data sources. Instructional practice, the biggest chunk at 56.7 percent, would be based on the teacher observations. The portion based on student performance on state assessment tests would drop from about 50 percent to 33.3 percent. Growth in professional development would count for 10 percent.

Teachers would be rated as highly effective, effective, needs improvement or unsatisfactory.

Principals would also have greater discretion in rating teachers' classroom performance.

Administrative staff evaluations similarly would rely less on test scores than observation.

The language in the proposed school district's policy regarding the changes in teacher evaluations mirrors the district's tentative agreement with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. However the teachers union hasn't ratified its agreement nor will it address the School Board today.

PCTA president Mike Gandolfo said that although the teacher evaluations are unrelated to why the association is withholding ratification, he said the new evaluation system is too time-consuming and there hasn't been enough training on it.

"Right now the pressure couldn't be any higher," he said. "It's real consequences for the teachers."

Contact Colleen Wright at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

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