State plans teacher evaluation system

By Chris Kieffer | NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s teachers may soon be measured in new ways.
The state’s Department of Education is developing a system for evaluating its educators that could be ready to be used during the 2014-15 school year. It would be used to help identify training needs of individual teachers, said Daphne Buckley, deputy state superintendent for quality professionals and special schools.
“We want to be able to really differentiate effectiveness,” Buckley said. “We want to see the strong teachers so we can draw from their strengths, and we want to see if teachers have challenges so we can address those challenges in order to improve their practice.”
There is not currently a statewide evaluation system, although individual districts have their own methods. The new model will assess five areas: planning, assessment, instruction, learning environment and professional responsibility.
It will use both classroom observations and student growth from one year to the next. The method for measuring that growth has not yet been determined, Buckley said.
Evaluations likely will rank teachers in a range of performance measures from unsatisfactory to emerging to effective to distinguished. Its results would be used to provide a better grasp of teacher’s strengths and weaknesses, Buckley said. It will be up to the school district to provide targeted training to help teachers become effective.
The MDE has been working on this model for the past year and a half and will seek input from teacher focus groups throughout the state, Buckley said.
“We want to make sure it is clear, comprehensive, fair and equitable,” she said.
This year, it is piloting a model of the evaluation system at various schools in Jackson and Columbus and in Simpson, Wayne, Jones, Calhoun and George counties. If the pilot goes well, it could train districts and teachers on the system during the next school year and then field test it across the state in 2013-14.
Under the No Child Left Behind law, the federal education department now requires districts to have highly qualified teachers, a mark that is measured by teachers being certified for the subjects in which they teach. The USDE is moving to instead measure highly effective teachers, Buckley said, noting that is what the evaluation system would aim to do.
“In order to look at whether or not you are highly effective, we need to look at the impact on student learning,” Buckley said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com