Teacher and staff evaluations always need to evolve, according to Upper Adams School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Eshbach.
Student achievement, he added, needs to be considered as part of that process but not based on standardized test scores alone.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Monday unveiled a pilot evaluation program, which puts more emphasis on how students perform on standardized tests.
Department spokesman Tim Eller said student performance on two different standardized test systems would determine half of the scoring for teachers.
State law currently prohibits student achievement from being taken into consideration on teacher evaluations.
“In Upper Adams, teachers are evaluated on a goal-setting and goal-achieving process that has been in place for about ten years. Teachers self-evaluate their weaknesses and along with their principals identify the areas they need to work on. They are then observed and evaluated based on their achievement of the goal to improve those areas of weakness. I do think student achievement should play some role in the evaluation of teachers and principals. However, I do not think it should be simply student achievement on the PSSA test,” Eshbach said.
Eshbach, also a former Biglerville Elementary School Principal, said he finds several questions raised by the proposal such as “how is a music teacher, guidance counselor or school nurse to be evaluated when their areas of focus are not tested, are we creating a system where educators are vying for the best test takers and resentful of those students who bring their scores down, and are we creating a system promoting cheating such as what is going on in Atlanta right now?”
Investigations in Atlanta recently revealed heating took place in 44 schools involving 178 educators.
Beginning next year in 26 Georgia school districts student test data will count as 50 percent in pilot evaluations of teachers in core subjects.
Eller said the Pa. Department of Education plans on surveying school districts this month to see if they will participate in the pilot program. Results in the 2011-12 school year would not be used for actual evaluations.
Under the current system of evaluating teachers, 99 percent received satisfactory scores.
“The 99 percent would be comparable to Upper Adams,” Eshbach said. “What is not reported is the work that is done before the evaluation to ensure a ‘satisfactory’ score. This begins with the selection of teachers, the granting of tenure, the interventions that take place when a principal recognizes problems with a teacher and improvement plans that are written. Also remember there are only two choices on the current system the state has, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. An educator has to be significantly deficient to be rated unsatisfactory.”
In the current evaluation system, teachers are rated on four categories. They may be unsatisfactory in one area, but receive an overall rating of satisfactory.
“That, I think, is the most glaring problem with the current system,” Eshbach said. “It is black and white. We need a system that is more graduated and truly recognizes the best of the best in our profession while accurately evaluating those who need to improve, but aren't unsatisfactory. They are what I have called the painfully average educator. I am supportive of such a system.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.