NORTH ADAMS -- Teachers and administrators in school districts receiving federal Race to the Top grant funds will be subject to a new state-wide evaluation system beginning in September, and these new guidelines will be presented by the North Adams School Committee at a public hearing on Wednesday.
The new system, which was adopted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at the end of June 2011, seeks to set standards for determining educator impact on student learning, growth and achievement, and also incorporates student and parent feedback into the evaluation process.
"We are using Race to the Top grant funds to develop training materials, resources and networks designed to support districts in implementing the new regulations," JC Considine, spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said in an email Monday. "The department is also developing guidelines and resources for determining educator impact on student learning, growth and achievement, and incorporating student and parent feedback in evaluations. Districts participating in Race to the Top will have additional resources to help support implementation."
He added that school districts can choose to adopt, adapt or revise a model evaluation system crafted by the state.
Over the last year, the North Adams Public School’s Evaluation Working Group has been going over the new evaluation guidelines, which will be
"We see this as being a helping tool, not a hurting tool," Superintendent James E. Montepare said Monday. "For the North Adams Public Schools, we see it as a way to determine what our individual strengths are and what we need to work on. It will give us guidance and help us accomplish those goals."
Although the district has yet to complete negotiations with the North Adams Teachers Union, he said he expects the first year to have a district-wide "smart goal" -- a particular initiative the district as a whole will focus on -- with which individual teacher and administrator goals will tie in.
"This is a good thing," Montepare said. "What the new system does is tie everything together -- from our school improvement plans, which lay out what each school needs to do, to our teacher and administrative evaluations. It consolidates a lot of items for us, including our grant program evaluations. It’s a holistic approach that gets rid of duplication and saves money at the same time."
According to the DESE website, the new evaluation system’s primary goal is to make student learning and performance the central focus of each district. For teachers, the primary standards being looked at include curriculum, planning and assessment; teaching all students; family and community engagement; and professional culture. Rubrics, or standards for the evaluations in the four standard areas, rate teachers as unsatisfactory, needs improvement, proficient or exemplary.
In the curriculum, planning and assessment category, to earn an exemplary rating, teachers must demonstrate that they have an expertise in the subject area they are teaching, teach that subject to students at varying levels of development within their classroom, and design lessons that are highly engaging and are designed to require students to use higher-order thinking skills.
Montepare said while the evaluations will eventually incorporate scores from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests, that portion won’t be revealed until every district in the state rolls out the evaluation system in 2013.
"It has to be done with common sense and can’t just look at a single set of scores," he said. "What it will do is create a sense of accountability and help us get stronger. The goal is to help our students and improve their pathways to college or to a career."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email firstname.lastname@example.org.