Wis. Proposes 'Major Shift' in Teacher Evaluations

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State Superintendent Tony Evers outlined Monday a statewide system for evaluating teachers and principals, marking a "major shift for Wisconsin."

The system would base half of teacher evaluations on classroom practices and the other half on student outcomes, such as test scores, which have not been used before in Wisconsin.

"It's a big move for the state," Deputy State Superintendent Mike Thompson said. "It was a big step at the beginning to get some consensus from players around the state as to what a good evaluation system will look like."

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, raised two main concerns—the system not being tested and ready until the 2014-15 school year and any attempt to make the system mandatory.

Districts should be allowed to develop systems on two main principles in the framework—basing 50 percent of an evaluation on student outcomes, and the use of national standards for evaluating classroom practices, Olsen said.

"I don't care if you build a two-story or a ranch or a bungalow, just as long as the foundation is right," Olsen said. "The two core principles need to be required, but that's as far as it goes."

But Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said educators would be less supportive if the entire framework isn't adopted.

"Everybody at the table, including us, was very clear that you're either following the framework or you're not," Brey said. "The idea of taking any single piece out of this would not be acceptable."

The framework released Monday outlines several details, including:

• Half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on a mix of student outcomes, including improvement on state and local tests over time, achieving student, school and district goals, and school-wide reading scores and graduation rates.

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• The other half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on 10 standards developed by a national consortium of educators and an evaluation model developed by education consultant Charlotte Danielson.

• Based on the evaluation, educators would be categorized as "developing," "effective" or "exemplary."

• Teachers evaluated as "developing" for an unspecified period of time would enter an "intervention phase." If at the end of that period the teacher was still deficient, the district would have a removal option with an appeals process.

• New teachers would be evaluated in each of their first three years, "developing" teachers would be evaluated annually and other teachers would be evaluated once every three years. The evaluation would be based on "multiple observations" of classroom practice.

• Classroom evaluators would be certified through a consistent statewide program. To defray some of the cost of evaluations, interns would cover classes for senior teachers, who could serve as peer evaluators.

• Individual ratings would not be subject to the state's open records law.

The framework was developed by a task force consisting of teacher unions, school district associations, university officials, academic researchers and the governor's office. The group had been working since last December on developing the model.

The system would be piloted in some districts next fall and must be in place by 2014-15 in order for Wisconsin to qualify for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said he expects to discuss with the School Board in coming months about whether the district should be one of the pilot districts.

"What this could create is an opportunity to look at our current system and make changes consistent with these recommendations," Nerad said.

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