The Tacoma School Board on Thursday approved a roll-out schedule for the new teacher evaluation system that will launch its first phase this fall.
Early on, the school district will focus its most thorough evaluations on new teachers and other teachers identified as needing help. But it aims to put all teachers through a comprehensive review in the next five years.
Both school district and teachers union officials describe development of the system as a collaborative effort – a sign that both sides have overcome any bad feelings left over from the 2011 teacher strike.
“I’m pleased with the work we’ve done with the Tacoma Education Association,” said Lynne Rosellini, assistant superintendent for human resources.
She said a 14-member committee made up of equal numbers of union and district representatives have been working on the plan since last spring.
That work is scheduled to continue next week, as the group prepares to work out details of one of the thorniest issues in the new system: how to include measurements of student growth in the teacher-rating system.
That concept has caused ripples of discontent with teachers throughout the nation. But it’s now a state-mandated component for Washington school districts.
Tacoma Education Association (TEA) President Adrienne Dale said she believes Tacoma already had an effective teacher evaluation system, but the latest version was mandated by the Legislature.
Still, she agrees with Rosellini’s assessment that the process of putting the system together locally has involved cooperation between the union and the school district.
Dale said that TEA “has a huge voice in the new evaluation process.”
Tacoma’s plan “will meet the requirements of the new law and at the same time will address the necessity to educate and prepare our classroom teachers and their evaluators,” she said. “TEA is confident that the current evaluation process will transition smoothly into the new system.”
Tacoma has about 2,000 certificated staff, which includes classroom teachers as well as librarians, counselors and other staff. Only classroom teachers will be reviewed under the new system.
Tacoma’s plan will have the greatest immediate impact this year on teachers who are in their first four years of teaching. They will face the most comprehensive evaluations, which will rate them in eight different areas – everything from basic instructional practices to how well they communicate with parents and collaborate with peers.
Other teachers with more experience who have been identified by principals as needing more help will also be evaluated using the comprehensive tool, Rosellini said.
Finally, the district is asking additional veteran teachers who already have four years of satisfactory evaluations to volunteer for the comprehensive evaluation; that way, it can gauge the new system’s accuracy and ensure at least some teachers in every school go through the process.
This year, the majority of Tacoma teachers – possibly up to 90 percent – will be evaluated only in two selected focus areas among the eight.
The schedule, approved Thursday, would phase in an additional 25 percent of the teaching force in each of the next four school years. By the 2017-18 school year, the goal is for all teachers to have done the comprehensive evaluation at least once, Rosellini said.
She said one reason for the phase-in is to allow both principals and teachers to gain knowledge of how the new system works.
Tacoma teachers should have received newsletters explaining the process, Rosellini said. And the district is also developing training on the system for the school year that starts Sept. 4.
Like all school districts in Washington, Tacoma must comply with new state legislation. In 2010, lawmakers mandated the use of a four-tiered rating system. Later, they added requirements that evaluations must include multiple measurements of student growth.
Districts can choose from three state-selected evaluation tools, which contain concepts that were tested in school districts around the state.
Tacoma has chosen a model developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership, known as the Five Dimensions of Teaching and Learning.