New teacher evaluation plan to help enhance learning, effectiveness

Does TAAP, WISD’s new “teacher evaluation plan” take into consideration teacher effectiveness by looking at how much our kids are actually learning, or is it simply another ‘smoke and mirror’ exercise in subjectivity?

With his retirement looming at the end of the month, Crosby – the outgoing Executive Director of Human Resources – presented the WISD Board of Trustees a new Teacher Alternative Appraisal Plan (TAAP) that has been in the works since 2009 and piloted at several schools for the past three years. The plan was approved by a unanimous vote.

At its base, WISD’s TAAP serves to replace the state’s current system, known as the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS), that has been in existence for about 15 years or so. The state allows school districts to replace PDAS if it chooses with a plan of its own.

“It has become a sort-of checklist,” Crosby said of why WISD wanted to adopt a new plan to replace PDAS. “PDAS looked at scores but it never developed a plan to help teachers correct what needed to be corrected nor enhance what was working.”

In the TAAP, teachers are evaluated based on five standards that align with WISD’s mission statement to “teach, challenge and inspire each student in a safe, nurturing environment to succeed in the global community.” Those five standards are:

• Teachers will value and respect all students, employees, parents, partners and the community.

• Teachers will demonstrate visionary leadership.

• Teachers will engage in and promote personal and organizational learning.

• Teachers will make data-driven decisions.

• Teachers will practice ethical behavior and personal integrity.

Crosby said at the beginning of each school year, principals will provide teachers three weeks to develop an individual Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP) that will be used throughout the year to evaluate their progress. At the end of the school year, teachers will sit with principals to talk about what went well and what didn’t.

“One of the most important components of PPDP is that it has to impact student achievement,” he said.

There are two tiers of teachers – Tier 1 teachers are those on a first-year probational contract; Tier 2 are all other teachers on a second- or third-year probationary contract and/or a term contract. Tier 1 teachers are observed twice throughout the year with formal observations and other informal ones. Tier 2 teachers are also observed but mostly through the informal observations.

“Observations through PDAS were somewhat of a dog-and-pony show and a phony representation [of how teachers teach every day],” Crosby explained. “Our process provides a more accurate representation of what’s happening in the classroom.”

After the observations, teachers will be given feedback of what the evaluator thought about what they saw.

“I think it’s important for the teacher to know what they thought,” Crosby said of the evaluator. “It also provides more opportunity for conversation.”

Though the substance is different, the timeline follows the same as PDAS which is:

• Step 1 – Orientation – Within three weeks of the start of the school year, the principal gives the teacher a copy of TAAP.

• Step 2 – Professional Development Plan – Teacher prepares PPDP that enhances an educator’s knowledge and skills in specific areas; emphasizes collegial and collaborative dialogue; encourages risk-taking, creativity and experimentation; and what evidence, upon completion, will prove student learning.

• Step 3 – Pre-Observation Conference – Prior to the first informal walkthrough, the principal or evaluator will meet with the teacher to talk about PPDP, among other things.

• Step 4 – Series of Informal Classroom Observations (Walkthroughs) – A minimum of six walkthroughs, one every six weeks, with feedback.

• Step 5 – Summative Conference – A final meeting between the principal and the teacher to be done no later than the 15th day before the last day of instruction.

The scale teachers are evaluated on include beginning, developing, applying and innovative. Crosby said this is much more effective than rating teachers from one to four.

“There was a somewhat negative connotation for practitioners [using the numbering scale],” he said. “This allows the teacher the ability to know what they need to do more of to be better.”

Crosby said the system has been received positively at the three campuses it has been piloted at the past three years.

“Input from teachers and principals was critical,” he said. “They were very excited that we went a different way [than PDAS].”

It’s important to note that TAAP is not a merit-based system so a teacher’s salary cannot be impacted by the results. Crosby added that after this first year when everyone will be trained on the new system during teacher orientation in the fall, an online module is being developed that will allow new teachers the ability to learn about the evaluation system without having to add more days or hours to orientation.

The state is scheduled to unveil a new evaluation system of its own for the 2014-15 school year but Crosby said WISD didn’t know that when former superintendent Dr. Deborah Cron commissioned him to do it six years ago.

“We simply couldn’t have known this was on the horizon and after all the time and effort spent [developing TAAP], we decided to go with this,” Crosby said. “We’re very comfortable with it.”

At the June 12 school board meeting when TAAP was approved, board president Paul Paschall said the system had credibility because teachers and principals were brought into the process. He also commended Crosby and wished him well in retirement.

Crosby replied by saying, “After 43 years, it’s time.”

Crosby’s replacement, Monty Chapman, officially takes over Monday. Chapman has been superintendent at Paradise ISD since 2009.

817-594-9902 , Ext. 104

Twitter: @scoopmdw3701

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