New teacher evaulation model OK’d

Published 9:00 pm Monday, May 2, 2011

The Virginia Board of Education has approved a new model for evaluating teachers that largely focuses on student performance.

The model suggests student academic progress should make up 40 percent of teachers’ overall ratings. That differs from what Suffolk Public Schools currently does.

“That has not been part of our evaluative tool,” said Leigh Bennett, the school system’s director of human resources. “That will be a new piece.”

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Six other areas account for 10 percent each in the new model — professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of and for student learning, professionalism and learning environment.

Bennett said it will be up to Superintendent Deran Whitney as to what emphasis Suffolk Public Schools will place on student progress in teacher ratings, but she believes the schools will start at the suggested 40 percent.

Bennett said while this will be a big change in the schools, the focus on student achievement is nothing new.

“Our teachers are working very hard on student performance,” Bennett said. “The teachers are really in gear for that.”

This new model calls for higher accountability, she added.

“We’re accountable for the work that we produce and the student achievement that is had,” Bennett said.

Additionally, school divisions, including those participating in two government-funded pilot programs, can use the new guidelines to apply performance pay for teachers.

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s performance-pay pilot program offers extra pay of up to $5,000 for excellent teachers at hard-to-staff schools.

Numerous schools in Norfolk and Portsmouth have been invited to be a part of the program.

Bennett said she is interested in where the funds are coming from for the performance pay.

“You hear so much about budget restraints and budget shortfalls, that type of program seems ironic,” she said.

The new model will become effective July 1, 2012, but school divisions can decide to implement it before that date. Performance-pay pilot schools must put the model in place in the fall.

Bennett said Suffolk wants to have it in place for the coming school year.

“We are planning to do a lot of work in this area in our administrators’ retreat,” she said.