OUR OPINON: Teacher evals hold potential

By NEMS Daily Journal

The state Department of Education’s initiative to develop a statewide system for evaluating teachers is a step toward improving the overall quality of instruction, including improving the performance of teachers identified by objective assessment as needing improvement.
Pilot programs for an evaluation system are operational in Jackson and Columbus and in Calhoun, Simpson, Wayne Jones and George counties.
Sue Mathison, superintendent of the Pass Christian schools and the administrator member of the state Board of Education, said Tuesday she believes the process can lead to an effective statewide standard.
No statewide standard exists, but individual districts have evaluation systems. Uniformity with a statewide standard and process would provide consistency and stakeholder confidence that locally developed systems sometimes lack.
Mathison said focus group evaluations will begin soon, an integral element in developing the system.
Deputy State Superintendent Daphne Buckley said it is likely teachers will be ranked with a range of performance comprised of unsatisfactory, emerging and effective.
However, nothing is set in stone. Mathison said she believes an effective system will emerge by the 2014-2015 school year “with some tweaking along the way.”
The idea of a comprehensive evaluation standard is not just another bureaucratic exercise, it is a businesslike approach to determining and identifying employee performance – and resolving problems when they are identified.
Many school systems nationwide – some states and large “local systems” – have successfully implemented evaluation systems. Some states like New York are wrestling with an evaluation system. The job isn’t easy and rough patches are more likely than not.
One method that has received independently evaluated high marks is the Teacher Evaluation System used in the Cincinnati Public Schools. The system has been in place 11 years, and an evaluation by Harvard researchers in 2011 was generally positive. (See http://educationnext.org/evaluating-teacher-effectiveness for a summary report on the findings).
The TES is based on multiple classroom visits/observations and performance based on fully developed measurements.
The Harvard research and evaluation found links between the ratings applied in Cincinnati and improved student performance.
We’re not suggesting that Mississippi base its evaluation system on any other system’s model, but certifiable success is a strong recommendation for at least serious study of possible adaptations.
The evaluation effort, it should be noted, is driven by changes in the federal standard for determining what makes a highly effective teacher. The No Child Left Behind Act, a product of the George W. Bush years, requires subject certification, but U.S. DOE is moving toward the more extensive individual evaluation process in the classroom.