Ben Delman is a GOVERNING contributor.
When some Delaware students return to the classroom in September, they won't be the only ones anxiously awaiting test scores. A new trial evaluation method will be used to measure teacher performance. A main focus of the program is to peg a teacher's evaluation to how his or her students have improved during the course of the year and how the students score on statewide assessment tests.
Student improvement will be one of five criteria used to rate teachers. The other four are professional responsibilities, instruction, classroom environment and planning and preparation. The new evaluation system was mandated by the Delaware legislature in 2000, when it passed the Educator Accountability and Professional Development Act. It has taken until now to put a trial program in place because of teachers' union concerns as to how the standardized test scores would be used in the evaluation mix. "The system forces you to compare different students rather than the beginning and ending for the same students," says Barbara Grogg, president of the Delaware State Education Association.
The pilot program will test the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) II. The current version, DPAS I, rates teachers in six categories but does not take student advancement into account. The program will be tested in two school districts and be evaluated after each year of the trial. When the system is implemented statewide two years from now, each school or district will decide how to measure student improvement. "Everyone is responsible for student growth," says Robin Taylor, the state's associate secretary of education. "How it plays out is a conversation between the person being evaluated and evaluator."
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