GASD continues to develop teacher eval system


Recorder News Staff

Teachers and administrators in the Greater Amsterdam School District are continuing to create and implement their new teacher evaluation system.

At a recent Board of Education meeting, administrators gave the board a detailed overview of the comprehensive Race to the Top challenge that entails data driven instruction, common core state standards, and teacher and leader effectiveness.

"All three components are designed to improve the college and career readiness of our students," said Director of Secondary Instruction for the district, Susan Stoya.

GASD Director of Elementary Instruction Robert Mark continued to explain for the board what exactly was entailed in the new teacher evaluation system.

Evidence Based Observation and Performance, or EBOP, will make up 60 percent of the 100-point teacher evaluation system, Mark explained.

Included EBOP are pre-meetings with the teachers, observation -- some announced, others not -- and a post meeting to debrief on what was seen in the classroom.

Twenty percent of the teacher evaluation system will be a local assessment that the district and teacher's association are still discussing.

And the final 20 percent will be based on student "growth."

For certain subjects, this growth is based on state assessments, and is determined by looking at students scores from the previous year compared to students scores from the current year, Mark explained.

The state will provide the numbers used to determine what is classified as "growth."

For the subjects that do not have state assessments, the district and teachers are responsible for creating Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs, based on pre-assessments that they give the students.

"We assess the students at the beginning of the school year and develop targets for them and set goals for them," Stoya explained.

Not every class will need the assessment, Stoya clarified for the board.

Under New York State Education Department guidelines, SLOs must cover classes with the largest numbers of students in them until a majority of the students, 51 percent, are covered.

Though the district was anticipating regional development of the pre-assessments, that didn't occur, leading the GASD to have to purchase some and work to develop some of their own.

"It's been complicated to try and figure it all out," Stoya admitted.

GASD Director of Data and Personnel Michele Downing told the board at the time that the district is actually ahead of the game in the process as some of the teachers had already started the assessments.

"The idea is to set a target for my students," Downing said. "I know what my post assessment is (and) the pre-test is offering me preliminary information on my students. We're going to use the information to help us develop the target."

The teachers write the SLOs, but they get help from the district administrators.

This idea might help to calm some of their nerves, she said.

"The teacher, knowing they can help develop the target, they should be able to breath a little easier because they do have a say."

It allows the teacher to help develop and set up individual targets for their students, using something called "banding," Stoya added.

In "banding" a teacher can have subgroups of students, and although the growth has to be the same for each subgroup, the targets for those subgroups do not.

The pre-assessment is testing what the students know now in regard to what they should know at the end, Mark said.

"It's like giving them a final at the beginning," he explained. "By giving a pre-assessment, you're giving the students an idea of what they're targeting."

Stoya said some of the questions are more challenging than others so that teachers can make well-informed predictions of where their students should be by the end of the year.

"The state has moved toward the growth model because there are a number of states who have used it and found it to be very effective," she said. "The growth model actually helps a district like Amsterdam. We may not hit those achievement targets, but we may be more effective moving our students (forward). It should help our students."

Ultimately, Stoya said the district has been trying to calm concerns by educators and work with them.

"We hope to use the results to be able to help our teachers move forward."

To watch the full presentation by administrators, readers can watch the Sept. 26 GASD Board of Education meeting tonight at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable's NASA Channel.