Teachers will soon be getting their own grades, but some school administrators worry they don't have enough time or money to learn how to dole out those grades.
The 2012-13 school year is the test year for the new Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system, which grades teachers on everything from student progress to classroom management.
But as the first day of school closes in, administrators are frustrated that they don't have enough time or money to train their staff correctly.
“This is not a case of being opposed to this particular reform,” said Lisa Muller, assistant superintendent of curriculum for Jenks Public Schools. “It's a case of not having the time to implement it thoughtfully and well.”
Law changes evaluation system
A recent state law set out guidelines for a new evaluation system for teachers. Last summer, a Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission began working out the details for the system, eventually recommending an evaluation system to the state Board of Education.
In December, however, the board decided to allow school districts to choose from a list of approved systems they preferred for the 2012-13 school year, which would be considered a pilot year for the state.
Next year — the 2013-14 academic year — will be the first full year of implementation as required by law.
Most school districts selected a system known as the Tulsa model. The second most popular choice was the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model.
Now, teachers are typically given raises based on their education and years of employment.
Under the new models, teachers will be evaluated on student growth, classroom management and other factors. Other changes will include the manner in which teachers earn tenure and the practice of forcing districts to fire teachers who are rated as “ineffective” for two consecutive years.
High bids caused trouble
Districts had to choose a training model by April, but they couldn't find their own trainers because of state contract rules, said Alicia Currin-Moore, executive director of teacher and leader effectiveness for the state Education Department.
So everything was on hold until the bids came back.
When the bids came back too high — $4.3 million to fit into a $1.5 million slot — state officials negotiated for better deals, she said.
The contractors made better offers, but the cost was still about $200,000 over budget, Currin-Moore said.
That's when officials decided to parcel out the training money to the districts, which will have to fill in the gaps.
Some districts will have bigger gaps than others.
In Norman, Superintendent Joseph Siano expects to receive about $28,000 for training from the state Education Department. However, he expects to spend about $100,000 during the next year or so.
Siano said he is frustrated with legislators for mandating the new system, but not following up with money to pay for it, and he's worried poorly funded execution could quash a good idea.
“We all want to be held accountable to one specific thing: our students' learning. Our teachers will embrace that,” he said. “All of the success and effectiveness of this reform is based on the effective implementation. ... The Legislature, in adopting reform, also has to commit the resources to make that reform effective.”
Districts can start training now, but now isn't a good time for everyone.
In Jenks, most employees are gone in July, said Muller, the assistant superintendent.
“We lost our opportunity to train people while they were here,” Muller said.
Now, Jenks officials will be trained when they return next month — hopefully before school starts Aug. 16. The compressed timetable will add pressure to administrators who already have stressful jobs, Muller said.
Oklahoma City Public Schools is one of the few districts that has already started training. The district selected the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model and has about 140 administrators who will serve as evaluators.
Teachers are evaluated by principals and fellow teachers, said Wilbur House, executive director of curriculum and development for Oklahoma City Public Schools. The goal is to collaborate.
“You have more than one set of eyes looking at the performance level of that teacher,” he said.
The goal is to improve teachers in every classroom, said Chuck Tompkins, executive director of human capital for the Oklahoma City district. The results will pay off for students, he said.
“Every single one of us who went into this profession should have one goal — academic success of children,” Tompkins said. “Period. Your academic success of children is the biggest payout for a teacher.”