Puyallup’s classroom teachers will be measured by new yardsticks when the school year begins Sept. 4.
Like all districts around Washington, the Puyallup School District must meet new state mandates for teacher and principal evaluation systems starting in the 2013-14 year.
While legislation approved in 2012 prescribes many features of the new evaluation tools, districts and teacher unions were allowed to negotiate specifics.
In Puyallup, Pierce County’s second-largest school district, representatives of both parties say they worked together to craft a satisfactory one-year agreement.
The changes will be gradually phased in. This year, all new Puyallup teachers in the first three years of their careers will use the new system. So will teachers on probation — likely fewer than a dozen. In addition, the district will ask other teachers to volunteer to be evaluated under the new system.
The goal is to have 25 percent of teachers evaluated under the new system this year, then phase in more each year until all teachers are using it in 2016-17.
“We worked hard with the district and the principals’ association on a collaborative committee to decide the best way to satisfy the state law and do what’s best for all,” said Karen McNamara, president of the nearly 1,200-member Puyallup Education Association.
Superintendent Tim Yeomans said the process had the potential to raise difficult issues between districts and teachers. But he said Puyallup handled those issues well.
He said district administrators and union officials worked together to make sure Puyallup has a “seamless transition.”
One thorny question hanging over all Washington districts is how to meet the state mandate to include multiple measurements of student growth in teacher evaluations.
Growth can be measured using a variety of data. In Puyallup, each teacher and principal will set goals and negotiate which data will be used in the teacher’s evaluation.
“We developed, with the union, a list of ideas and possible measures,” said Assistant Superintendent Chrys Sweeting. “It is not exhaustive.”
The legislation says growth measures can be based on state or district tests, as well as classroom-based assessments.
The law requires school districts to consider a list of eight criteria upon which teachers will be judged. The criteria range from fostering a safe, positive learning environment in the classroom to communicating with parents. Classroom teachers will be ranked, according to a point system, in one of four tiers, labeled from unsatisfactory to distinguished.
McNamara said Puyallup was already using a seven-criteria, three-tiered system. She said most teachers should be able to switch without difficulty.
She said the new system requires more dialogue between teachers and principals.
“They will work a lot together,” McNamara said. “It will be ongoing. But because it requires more conversations, therefore it will be more time consuming.”
That’s one reason Puyallup will phase teachers into the system year by year. The timeline is similar to the one recently adopted by Tacoma Public Schools.
Sweeting said the district and union will evaluate the new system as it takes effect this year.
“We want to make sure it is something that helps principals, teachers and all leaders within the system to be effective in their roles,” she said.