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Teacher evaluation results are skewed
Too many positive results reported under new system
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Centennial Arts Academy fifth-grade teacher Abby Denly calls on a student Friday during class. - photo by Tom Reed

Last spring, about 5,800 teachers were evaluated under a state pilot program, with almost 20 percent earning the top rating of exemplary and less than 1 percent of teachers classified as “ineffective,” according to a study conducted by the state Department of Education.

The report even stated the early results were “skewed to the positive.”

Teachers in 26 districts participated in the program, which was conducted January to May 2012. The Teacher Keys Evaluation System is part of an effort to find a new way to pay teachers, based in part on performance.

According to the study, 0.032 percent of teachers were classified as ineffective, 5.95 percent as developing or needing improvement, 74.4 percent as proficient and 19.3 percent as exemplary.

“I would point to the fact that it’s a pilot and a part of any pilot is to find out what’s not working well so you can make those changes and make those improvements,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.

He said the report looked at the state as a whole and district-specific numbers were not calculated unless at the request of local systems.

Gainesville school officials said they had 53 teachers in the pilot program — about 10 percent of teachers at each school.

According to Priscilla Collins, director of school improvement for the system, more than 93 percent of city teachers in the pilot earned a tag of proficient or exemplary. About 6 percent were “developing” and less than 1 percent were ineffective.

The system evaluates teachers on 10 standards, including professional knowledge, instructional strategies, professionalism, communication and assessment strategies.

Under the old model, teachers were issued either a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating following a 10- to 15-minute observation session from an administrator.

Student growth and student surveys will also be a part of the evaluation, but neither were included in the study released by the state.

Collins said she agrees that the results statewide were skewed, mainly because many systems still use the old evaluation system for employment purposes, so most of the time and effort was placed there.

“Because you had the two parallel systems going on, principals really spent more time on the one that really counted for evaluation purposes and hiring purposes,” Collins said. “I think because of having to do both at the same time, I think some didn’t take it quite as seriously, to be quite honest.”

She said it’s more accurate to have no more than 5 to 10 percent of the school’s faculty in the exemplary range.

The same, she said, is true for the ineffective category.

“Ideally, you would want to see the majority of your teachers rated as proficient because that’s what our students need,” she said. “We expect our teachers to be proficient. Kids don’t have time for their teachers to be ineffective.”

Gainesville has implemented the system as its sole way to score teachers, but the system does not roll out statewide until the 2014-2015 school year.

At the end of this year, the numbers, she said, should reflect more accurately how the teachers are doing.

Hall County Schools, which also piloted the program, did not have scores available Friday, but officials said it wouldn’t be surprising to see the same skewed numbers.

“This is a brand-new instrument,” said Will Schofield, Hall County superintendent. “We have a lot of work to be done before we can start to get a comfort level that the instrument is accurately measuring the effectiveness. I guess I am not surprised there are people erring on the side of being generous to the teacher.”

Schofield said Hall County has the new system in place this year, but for teachers whose employment is not guaranteed based on performance, the district reverts to the old Georgia Teacher Observation Instrument system.

“I am very hopeful about the potential of the new teacher evaluation system,” Schofield said. “(But) I have told our principals since we agreed to implement it a year-and-a-half ago, that in terms of making employment decisions, I did not have that kind of confidence — in that there’s no great reliability in something that’s new, something that will take multiple years to get our hands around.”

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