USD 383 officials oppose teacher evaluations

By Bryan Richardson

USD 383 officials expressed firm opposition to teacher evaluations being included in the school finance formula reform bill during the school board meeting Wednesday.

Supt. Bob Shannon said he has serious reservations about teacher evaluations being included in the bill. “I think this is a stretch of Topeka into our local affairs,” he said.

Senate Bill 361, the bill containing Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal for education funding reform, includes a provision for required teacher evaluations that would take effect July 1, 2013.

The evaluation would rate teachers as highly effective, effective, progressing or ineffective. The ratings would be calculated with consideration for growth in student achievement (50 percent of the rating), input from supervisors, peers, parents and students (40 percent), and contributions to the profession including professional development (10 percent).

The district could fire any teacher deemed “ineffective” for two consecutive school years if the teacher had professional development opportunities. Also, a student would be prohibited from being taught in consecutive years by teachers rated as “ineffective.”

A particularly controversial aspect for USD 383 officials is the publishing of teachers’ names and their ratings on a website. “It goes right to the dignity of how you treat people,” Shannon said.

Board members echoed Shannon’s sentiments. They had concerns about attracting teachers to the state, and the state not trusting districts to do their jobs.

“This is a clear example of micromanaging by the state legislature in an area they know nothing about,” board member Walt Pesaresi said.

Board member Darell Edie said the ratings could also be impacted by biases. He said a teacher might have “a group of cheerleaders,” although he added that people with grudges were more likely to enter the process.

“Those are the ones who get heard,” he said. “It’s not the other people who have logical explanations.”

Board vice-president Dave Colburn wondered how music and P.E. teachers would be evaluated. “We have teachers that do a lot of teaching that isn’t tested,” he said.

In addition to state assessments, the bill states methods for assessing student achievement and growth for employees whose instruction isn’t measured through state assessments. However, it doesn’t have any details for what those methods might be for those without assessment tests.

Board president Doug Messer said the provision runs in opposition to the state’s push to put more emphasis on local money to fund schools.

“They want these seven people up here to provide the funding, yet they want drive the train on this,” he said. “That’s just ridiculous. I can’t believe it.”

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