Teacher Performance Evaluation Studied

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Thursday April 03, 2014

Last year the South Burlington School Board received an overview regarding the method by which district teachers are evaluated. This spurred questions about the performance evaluation practice and whether it was being prepared appropriately and effectively. At the time, a debate ensued as to whether or not board members could view evaluations, due to potential liability should a suit ever come before them. Legal counsel confirmed that even with names stricken from documents, viewing them was not advisable. 

Since then, Superintendent David Young has been trying to determine a way to audit teacher performance in a manner that satisfies all interested parties. Several months ago, Young crafted a request for proposal (RFP) for an independent audit. The response was extremely limited and ultimately did not result in anyone taking on the task. Therefore, March 7, Young met with Board Member Diane Bugbee, Director of Learning Stuart Weiss, and HR Director Karen Dantzscher to review options. 

The group discussed the reasons for the limited response to the RFP. These included the idea that perhaps it was too big a project given the time allotted. Another was that the undertaking would pose a steep learning curve in terms of completely understanding school evaluation systems, teaching techniques, and expectations in order to conduct a meaningful audit and make relevant recommendations. A suggestion was made to start the focus with ‘how, if, and where’ the Ends Policy fits into the Danielson model (the district’s current evaluation model). Also, questioned was the need for such an extensive review of the current evaluation system given that both the State of Vermont and the district are reviewing their performance review systems. 

Three potential actions were identified. One was an internal review of the evaluation process to produce a qualitative report including the number of evaluations being done, number of persons eligible (for evaluation) in a cycle, number of reviews by building, and any outstanding reviews and follow up processes. 

Another idea involved reducing the scope of the project to a set number of years with fewer reviews sampled in order to: determine how the district is doing; if they are reviewing the appropriate criteria; and measuring consistency in expectations of the evaluation system. 

The third proposed action would be to proceed with the existing project with an outside vendor. 

Young cautioned the importance of not making any identifiable information known, as even numbers of evaluations conducted per building could be problematic, especially since the number of teachers evaluated year to year varies based upon new hires, retirements, and resignations. 

The board decided that viewing at least a three year retrospective with quantitative data would be helpful. It was agreed Young would provide this at the next board meeting.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent