Current process includes only one method based on pupils' academic progress
By Kaitlin Mayhew -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A presentation at the last Shenandoah County School Board meeting outlined new ways to evaluate teachers in the county.
A general interpretation of the new model was approved by the Virginia Board of Education on April 28. Counties must now create a new evaluation method based on those guidelines, according to Ebbie Linaburg, assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction and assessment.
Linaburg focused most of her presentation at the Jan. 12 meeting on what is known as "Performance Standard 7," or evaluating the quality of teachers based on their pupils' academic progress.
Linaburg said that the current process only includes one method of measuring student achievement.
The new method, she said, will evaluate the progress of each pupil using baseline data collected at the beginning of the year, and then checking in with that student for status reports multiple times during the year.
"It is more intense," Linaburg said. "But there is good reason. Research has shown that teacher quality is the greatest school-related factor in student achievement."
The methods used could include SOL scores, exams or Advanced Placement test results.
Linaburg said the ultimate goal is not necessarily to get every pupil to the same level, but to see that each student is individually improving.
"We've had instances where a student may not have quite broken that 400 in the SOL, but they've grown a lot since the beginning of the year. Or we also see the opposite where a student may have passed the SOL but hasn't improved," she said. "That's not what we want, we want every student to grow every year."
Bill Wheat, guidance counselor at Signal Knob Middle School, voiced his disapproval for the proposed changes.
He said that the stress and "emotional uncertainty" that making changes in the teacher evaluations would bring is not a good way to improve classroom performance.
"Gov. [Bob] McDonnell's proposal was made to make it easier to remove substandard teachers," he said. "There are very few teachers in Shenandoah County that would fit in that category."
Linaburg acknowledged that the changes to standard 7 in particular are making some nervous.
"If you are rated very well on the standards 1 through 6 the chances are very good that you will do well on standard 7," she said.
Superintendent Keith Rowland said that the new requirements are a side effect, of sorts, of accepting stimulus money from the federal government.
"We're not getting a great deal of guidance on this and that's why we're being cautious," he said.
Once completed, the board will have final approval of the changes to the evaluations. Use of the new model will begin July 1.