New teacher evaluations to focus on district goals

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Katie Whaley

[dropcap style=”simple” size=”4″]W[/dropcap]ith a fresh school year underway, students and teachers are adjusting to new classes, rules, and regulations. For teachers throughout the Columbia Public Schools district, the new year brings a new evaluation system called the Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE).
The NEE, developed by the University of Missouri, was created to “satisfy state and federal requirements at the time, due to old legislation,” said Keith Bausman, the superintendent of Human Resources for CPS. “The second [reason it was created] was due to the need for a new rubric driven system that is based on research and best practices.”
A new rubric driven system was needed so CPS could have the same evaluation methods as surrounding districts in Missouri. The decision to switch methods was based on a variety of evaluating systems across Missouri and the certain demands of CPS.
“Last year the Professional Development Committee(PDC), made up of teachers, was tasked with analyzing various teacher evaluation systems,” Bausman said. “Due to the fact that NEE had been adopted by a large majority of school districts in Missouri and that it fit our local needs best, it was chosen.”
Although the transition to a new system may sound challenging, Evan Thornberry, a second-year math teacher, thinks the transitioning process will be different for some teachers.
“Being a newer teacher I would think that the transition is easier for me into the new system with the NEE than a long-standing teacher, only because I haven’t really known any other way,” Thornberry said.
Thornberry also thinks the NEE system can lead teachers in a specific direction when making lesson plans for their classes, and focus on specific goals each year, which will help them improve.
“[The] system will be great at helping teachers focus on improving a few parts about their teaching each year,” Thornberry said. “We, as teachers, were told what criteria we will be evaluated on, so now as we create lessons, we have to prepare for ‘if an evaluator comes in during this class, do I have the parts I need?’”
Like teachers have goals for evaluations, students have similar goals that relate to their academic performance. Junior Connor Crist thinks creating these goals has the same effect on teachers, as they do on students.
“It takes away the stress of having to focus on one large goal, and you’re able to focus more on the smaller things and have your priorities such as instead of focusing on getting an A in a class, focus just on doing well in the current unit,” Crist said. “For teachers, I think it has the same effect, and they’ll be able to focus more on helping students and teaching content.”
Thornberry also believes teachers who have the mentality that the NEE system is just another obstacle can abuse the system however, which would cause teachers to do what they are supposed to only while the evaluator is in the classroom.
Throughout each semester, Dr. Jennifer Rukstad will step inside the classroom for a short 10 minute period, evaluating teachers on classroom observations, Unit of Instruction (UOI) provided by each teacher, the Professional Development Plan (PDP) which is also provided by each teacher, and Student Surveys, according to the NEE website.
Although Rukstad is an evaluator, the process of changing systems can be at times challenging, and can lead down an unknown path.
“It will be a great deal different for me, in that my feedback to teachers includes an in-person component. I always leave feedback for teachers in my walkthroughs, but this will add a layer,” Rukstad said. “This is a good thing, but it remains to be seen how it will impact my practice.”
Along with the difficulty to adjust to a new system, Bausman sees a potential problem in comparing results of the evaluation to other states, because the NEE is a state based program, instead of nationally based.
“[Having a national system] would be nice for a teacher that would be moving from one state to the next to be able to compare, for their own improvement, the results they had received to know how they would line up to our current evaluation system,” Bausman said. “It is difficult to learn a new evaluation system when you are a teacher and would be great if the new evaluation was used in more than just Missouri.”
Despite the program’s lack of ability to compare results to other states, Bausman thinks the NEE can provide growth for not only teachers, but also students.
“Teachers have been evaluated before but feedback has been limited,” Bausman said. “This will give them feedback that can be utilized for their professional growth in such a way it should impact student achievement and growth.”