Beginning in the 2013-2014 school year Pennsylvania public school teachers will be graded on student performance as part of evaluations. Instructors deemed to be “failing” could be fired more easily, officials said.
And, while the new evaluation system is nearly a year away – and the state has yet to finalize aspects of it – Hatboro-Horsham School District officials discussed some of the challenges that come with its eventual implementation during a meeting last month.
The big change, according to Superintendent Curtis Griffin, is that if a teacher receives two “failing” ratings within a 10-year period, he or she could be fired. Currently, teachers must receive two unsatisfactory ratings back-to-back, he said.
“That’s a big change in the whole process,” Griffin said.
Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, similar evaluation systems will be put in place for principals and non-teaching employees.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has until June 2013 to finalize specifics of the new teacher evaluation system, but another challenge, Griffin said, is that the legislation “supersedes any collective bargaining agreement.”
Since Hatboro-Horsham School District officials and the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association – the union representing the district’s 390 teachers – are set to begin contract negotiations in January, the new legislation could pose some obstacles in finalizing a new contract before its June 30, 2013 expiration.
“There’s so many unknowns. It’s an unknown for everybody,” Union President Eric Shea told Patch. ““The state and (Pennsylvania State Education Association) haven’t said anything about what pieces are going to be bargain-able.”
One of the major sticking points in the recently resolved Chicago teacher strike involved evaluations being tied to student performance.
For Pennsylvania teachers, the state legislation, which was approved in the last budget cycle, would base 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations on student performance, including pupil performance on assessments; attendance; graduation rate; advanced placement course participation; and scholastic aptitude tests, in addition to other yet-to-be-determined factors devised by each school district.
State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151) of Horsham, said the intent of the law is to help good teachers improve and “to weed out those teachers who habitually, who are just unfortunately bad teachers.”
“There was pretty broad concern over the fact that 98 or 99 percent of all teachers were rated satisfactory,” Stephens said, adding that the end goal is to have “better teachers for our students.”
Shea, a health and physical education teacher, said he fears that a teacher who struggles with classroom management in his or first year and seven or eight years later has a “tough group of kids” could lose their job under the new evaluation system.
“That seems extreme,” Shea said. “What happens in the classroom isn’t just what the teacher is doing.”
Shea said he’s unsure how the state would regulate the evaluations, or “how enforceable” the regulations would be.
Stephens said the Pennsylvania Department of Education would oversee the new evaluation system and ensure compliance.
Once the missing details are made available, Shea said he would have a better understanding of how the new evaluations would be put in place.
“There’s so many variables that we don’t know about in terms of what assessments they’re going to use and tests they’re going to use,” Shea said. “It’ll be a plus for everyone if it’s done well.”
Tell us in the comments if you think teacher evaluations should be based on student performance, as well as their own individual performance.