Revamped Teacher Evaluations Bill is on the Move

Lawmakers may soon finalize a new system for teacher evaluations in Pennsylvania.  The amended bill has already garnered unanimous support in the state House, and the issue has long been one of Governor Tom Corbett’s top education reform priorities.

The current system, which is almost entirely based on classroom observations, allows for teachers to receive a rating of either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory.’  “That system does not provide for useful or meaningful feedback,” state Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) tells Radio PA.  99.4% of teachers are rated as satisfactory.

Aument has been leading the legislative push for a fairer system of educator evaluations; one that takes student performance into account.  His latest amendment, which specifically outlines the multiple measures of student performance to be considered, is building consensus around the issue.

“From day one we’ve made it clear that good evaluations are based on multiple measures,” says Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman David Broderic.  While the bill is not perfect, according to Broderic, he says the PSEA is glad to be a part of the process.

Up to 50% of teacher evaluation ratings would be based on student performance under HB 1980.  Possible ratings would include ‘distinguished,’ ‘proficient,’ ‘needs improvement’ or ‘failing.’  Aument says teachers who fall into the bottom two categories would participate in a performance improvement plan. “Our goal was to put in place a tool that’s pro teacher, and pro student,” he says.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President & CEO Joan Benso sees a disconnect in a system where 99.4% of teachers are rated as satisfactory, yet nearly 30% of children can’t read at grade level.  “Being sure that we have an evaluation system that not only rewards teachers that are performing well, but ID’s teachers that are struggling, so we can develop improvement plans for them to do better, will ultimately drive student achievement.”

Benso hopes lawmakers will adopt Aument’s bill before the summer break.  After passing the House with unanimous support, HB 1980 awaits Senate action.  If enacted, the new evaluation system is expected to be in place for the 2013/2014 school year.