New Georgia system will grade teachers

Georgia evaluations tied to student progress

ATLANTA — For the first time, student test scores soon will factor into evaluations for teachers and principals across Georgia under a new statewide program.

The state will roll out a pilot of its new educator evaluation system in January, starting with the 26 school districts – including Richmond County – that signed on to Georgia’s application for the federal “Race to the Top” grant competition. The state won $400 million last year to launch a host of programs aimed at improving student achievement and turning around low-performing schools.

The new evaluation system includes a value-added score – which gauges educators’ value based on how much their students gained in one year. Though there’s not one uniform way to calculate value-added measurements, the basic concept is to show whether a teacher helped improve test scores, attendance and other factors.

Teachers also will be judged on student surveys and two classroom observations by school administrators, with ratings of exemplary, proficient, developing/needs improvement or ineffective.

Principals will be judged based on their ability to retain effective teachers, their school’s student attendance and surveys filled out by the teachers in their schoolhouse, among other measurements.

For teachers in subjects where there is no standardized test – such as chorus or chemistry – districts will have to come up with student learning targets for classes to meet rather than relying on test scores. About 75 percent of teachers are in non-tested subjects. And eventually, the state plans to link the evaluations to merit bonuses for teachers and principals who do well.

Teacher evaluations are not new to Georgia – districts across the state have evaluated teachers and principals for years. But this is the first time the state has mandated that student test scores be part of that process, and it’s the first statewide system that eventually will be rolled out to all 180 districts.

Value-added measurements have drawn attention nationally – and some criticism – after The Los Angeles Times printed the names and scores for every teacher in the Los Angeles school district in April. Critics say it’s difficult to track which teacher is responsible for a student’s academic progress.

Teachers say they hope the state doesn’t rush through rolling out the evaluation system.

“To do evaluations well will require significant agreement on the instrument, significant training of those who will use it and significant amounts of time to actually accomplish it,” said Tim Callahan, the spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which represents more than 80,000 educators across the state. “Replacing our current drive-by evaluation system won’t be done easily, quickly or cheaply.”

The state’s pilot will include about 5,000 teachers and several hundred principals in the 26 districts – with up to 60 districts being added each year starting next fall. The entire state will be under the evaluation system starting in fall 2014.

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