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Teachers to be evaluated on new student achievement, objectives
New pilot program will begin in January
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Gainesville Exploration Academy third-grade teacher Amanda Studer works Wednesday morning with her students during math class. Gainesville and Hall County school systems must submit student objectives to the state as part of a pilot program starting in January.

Coming Sunday

An in-depth look at the components of the teacher evaluation pilot starting in January. Contact reporter Dallas Duncan at dduncan@gainesvilletimes.com if you would like to share your thoughts.

Hall County and Gainesville school districts today are submitting to the state new objectives for students as part of a pilot program starting in January.

Teachers in classes not judged by standardized tests must submit the Student Learning Objectives in an effort to find a concrete way to measure student progress.

That student progress will then be used as part of teacher evaluations as the state moves toward paying teachers based on their performance.

Hall County and Gainesville are participating in the pilot as part of Race to the Top, a federal grant that awarded the state $400 million. Ten percent of teachers in the systems are involved in the pilot.

Those classes required to submit the objectives include any between kindergarten and third grade as well as subjects such as art, music, P.E., exploratories and career-oriented classes.

Third-grade students do take a standardized test, but because they didn't the year before, there is no data to compare to thus they must also be judged on the objectives, said Priscilla Collins, principal at Gainesville Exploration Academy and director of teaching and leadership quality for Gainesville City Schools.

The objectives would examine student growth on pre- and post-assessments. Districts could either select already created assessments or make their own.

Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for Gainesville City Schools, said some of the assessments were chosen from materials already purchased by school systems or developed previously at state or national levels.

"We put together a two-day training for selected teachers pre-school through 12, across all areas and subjects," said Terry Sapp, educator on special assignment for Hall County Schools. "We had about 90 people and we learned what (Student Learning Objectives) were and spent the rest of the time trying to write them."

The objectives represent what a student learns within the length of a class, similar to a comprehensive final exam, Sapp said.

For example, Gainesville's second-grade math objective reads, "From January 2012 to March 2012, 100 percent of students will demonstrate proficiency or 10 percentage points of growth on the second-grade math district pre- and post-assessments."

That means students who come in scoring below a 70 on the pre-assessment will need to score a 70 on the post-assessment, and students who score a 70 or above on the pre-assessment must score 10 points higher on the post-assessment, Moore said.

"We had to write tiered goals that make certain all students are showing gains, not just the lowest students," he said.

For a P.E. class in the city school system, the suggested objective is for students to set their own goals and for 100 percent of them to reach it by the end of the pilot.

"What they're having to do for the CRCT ... they're asking us to do with the other 70 percent of (teachers for subjects and grade levels not included on standardized tests)," Moore said.

Sapp said it was unlikely teachers will use these post-assessments in place of a graded final exam for students; they will only be used for teacher evaluation purposes.

"A lot of these might be more performance-based," Collins said. "Many teachers give pre- and post-tests anyway. ... It definitely puts more accountability on everything in school being important."

Once the objectives are submitted, the state has until Wednesday to tell districts whether they need revisions.

The objectives are just one way teachers will be judged in the pilot. Currently, teachers are evaluated by administrative observation, but in the pilot they will be evaluated on that administrative observation along with student achievement, either on standardized tests or the objectives, and student surveys.

Collins said the state had not set how much the objectives will weigh in on the new teacher evaluations.

Whether the objectives are met or not, teachers will not be penalized in the pilot, Moore said. It is strictly to see whether the pilot objectives will work when they are put into full use in the systems in August.

"At first, most of the teachers who participated in the (Student Learning Objectives) meeting were overwhelmed by the task," Sapp said. "They were challenged by it, but I do believe by the end of the meeting they felt confident about the objectives they were writing."

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