Most teachers rated ‘effective’

School leaders say evaluations changing performance definitions

Leslie Gresham was named preschool Apple Award winner. Courtesy photo
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The vast majority of Douglas County School District teachers were rated “effective” under the district’s new teacher evaluation system.

More than 71 percent fell into the “effective” category, the second of four possible ratings. Just shy of 15 percent reached the top level and garnered a “highly effective” rating. About 14 percent were rated “partially effective,” and only 0.22 percent “ineffective.”

Those rankings help determine how much — or whether — a teacher’s pay will increase for the 2013-14 academic year. Another determiner is where a teacher’s current salary falls on DCSD’s new market-based pay scale, which established salary ranges based on subject matter.

The board of education approved its compensation package for the coming year May 14. Pay increases will range from 0 to 8 percent, with the average at 4 percent.

About 35 percent of the district’s teachers now are paid above market rate, according to DCSD-provided statistics; about 28 percent are paid at market rate; and about 37 percent are paid below market rate.

The news that just 15 percent of its teacher qualified as “highly effective” may seem at odds in a school district long-known for high-quality education. But Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Dan McMinimee said teacher quality hasn’t diminished.

“I think we’re transitioning the way we define highly effective,” he said. “There continue to be a lot of great teachers in this district, but the definition has changed.”

Rankings were left to the discretion of school principals, with no cap on those rated “highly effective.”

“Never did I feel I was held to a quota,” said Douglas County High School Principal Tony Kappas. “Everything I always felt and heard was ‘be accurate, be honest.’”

Ten percent of his teachers were ranked “highly effective,” which Kappas attributes in part to the system’s newness.

“In my heart, I’m sure we have a higher percentage” of highly effective, he said. “But there are higher expectations with the new tool. I think with higher expectations, we’re going to have higher quality (but) we’re being asked to look at a lot more data.

“I look at a couple teachers in our building and I have no doubt a year from now they’ll be ‘highly effective’ because they know where the bar has been set, what to reach for.”

District staff will work with the small percentage of teachers rated “ineffective,” McMinimee said.

“The intent of the (evaluation) tool is to work with people around how can you get better,” he said. “Anywhere a person falls on the evaluation, our principals are going to be working on that with them.”

Kappas believes the evaluations will work well as both teachers and administrators become familiar with them.

“If we could spin time backward, I wish we would have had more time to fully grasp this tool,” he said. “My dad used to say it’s like drinking water from a fire hydrant. There’s been a lot of change. I could not be more proud of our faculty for how they’ve embraced the change.”

The changes aren’t yet over. In 2013-14, teacher evaluations will shift again when state law requires the criteria to expand to include student achievement.

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