District overhauls teacher evaluation process

Moffat County School District teachers have described annual employee evaluations as stressful, subjective, too long, one-size-fits-all, dog-and-pony-show performances.

And administrators don't disagree.

"We needed our evaluation policy revised because it wasn't effective," Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said. "What our evaluation system should do is help us meet our mission. What we really want to do is improve student achievement. How do you do that? By having effective teachers."

He worked with two separate committees to improve the evaluation process and make it teacher friendly.

In the past, the evaluation process included an administrator spending an hour in a classroom and compiling an evaluation based on that observation. What that process didn't account for, he said, were teachers who planned ahead and used a special curriculum on that day because it was an evaluation, and it didn't account for teachers who were having a bad day.

It gave the teacher minimal feedback with little input that the teacher could use to improve.

In creating a new plan, the first determination was that multiple sources of evidence should be used to evaluate performance, not just one observation.

"We really want teachers to get better at their jobs," Superintendent Pete Bergmann said. "That's our purpose and philosophy."

The new system puts administrators in classrooms more often and allows teachers to set goals. It takes student test scores into account, feedback from peers, parents and students, professional conversations and student work samples.

It's based on how well teachers meet goals they set for themselves.

"This gives teachers the autonomy to drive their own professional development," Sheridan said. "But, if they need help, the administrator will make solid recommendations."

Changes removed the subjectivity in the evaluation process and focus on the positive as opposed to the negative.

The policy sets what Bergmann calls a curriculum for teachers. They evaluate themselves on their planning and preparation, the learning environment they create, instruction and meeting their professional responsibilities.

Teachers rank themselves on a scale of "learning" to "mastering," using a district-developed "Professional Guide for Teaching," so the focus is on improving practices rather than dwelling on the negative.

The new standards provide for administrators to visit each teacher's classroom at least once a week -- even if only for 15 minutes -- to better gauge trends and to get a feel for the big picture.

"I really think this is going to be a great improvement -- a valuable process and procedure," said school board member and former MCHS teacher JoAnn Baxter.

Nonprobationary teachers will receive at least one documented observation a year -- followed by an informal discussion -- and at least one written evaluation every three years.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.