Thursday, June 21, 2012

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK    The state Board of Education has approved a new evaluation system for all Arkansas teachers that will be in place in 2014.
            It will affect about 35,000 teachers.  At least half the evaluation criteria will be improvement of their students' scores on standardized tests. 
            Teachers will be evaluated in these areas: preparation and planning, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.  The highest rating they can achieve will be distinguished, followed by proficient, basic and unsatisfactory.
            A teacher who is rated unsatisfactory, or one who is rated basic in too many categories, will be placed in "intensive support status."  That teacher's evaluators will develop an improvement plan.  Agreeing to comply with the support plan will be a condition for the teacher's contract renewal.  If the teacher fails to accomplish the goals in the support plan, the school superintendent shall recommend termination or non-renewal of the teacher's contract.
            Teachers may not be under "intensive support status" for longer than two consecutive semesters unless they show substantial progress, in which case their evaluator can extend the period of intensive support for two more semesters.
            Teachers who consistently achieve a distinguished evaluation may be encouraged to accept the more challenging classes in their school.
            Several types of student standardized tests are possible for evaluating a teacher.  Any tests used must be "external," that is, administered and graded by an impartial third party such as a national testing firm.
            The evaluation system was approved by the legislature last year in Act 1209 of 2011.  The Education Department has received comments from the public and the period for submitting comments is over.  The next and final step in the ratification of the evaluation system is for the Legislative Council and its Review Subcommittee to go over the final version of the Education Department's rules, to make sure they accurately reflect the provisions in Act 1209.
            Evaluators must be administrators who have gone through a certification process set up by the state Education Department.  The teacher evaluation system will also apply to charter schools as well as conventional public schools that teach students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
            After the evaluation system has been in place for three years, some of the results will be posted on the annual school report cards that are available to the public as a way to gauge the performance of districts and individual schools.  Beginning in 2017, the report card will include the number of teachers employed at a school and the number of teachers who are rated proficient or distinguished.
            Schools will have to evaluate their teachers at least once every three years, although if they choose they may evaluate them more frequently.  The evaluations will go into effect in 2014-2015 school year.
            A pilot version of the teacher evaluation system has been going on in 35 school districts since 2010.
            Each year the Board will determine how much of an improvement is needed in order for a teacher to get an evaluation of distinguished.  Education officials are still working on a model to determine how much improvement will be necessary to get favorable ratings.

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