The Mesa Unified School District Governing Board approved a new evaluation system for teachers and principals at its meeting last week.
An Arizona law passed in 2010 requires public schools to create and uphold a “teacher evaluation instrument” that includes quantitative test score results and data on the academic progress of students.
The new law requires that between 33 percent and 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to student academic progress.
Because the Mesa district is among the first to implement the evaluation system, it took 12 months and a 30-member committee to put it all together.
Pete Lesar, Mesa’s assistant superintendant of human resources, helped oversee the development of the evaluation program and acknowledged that its biggest challenge was in making sure that 33 percent of the evaluation is based on student academic progress.
“It becomes a complex issue because there are so many different assessments that we give and so many different groups of teachers that need to be evaluated by student achievement,” Lesar said. “We think we will be able to refine it and improve it as we move forward.”
Kim Higgins, a third-grade teacher at Whittier Elementary School, said she will undergo her first evaluation Oct. 1. Higgins, 47, and a Mesa public school teacher for seven years, said that she is anxious about the new evaluation system.
“We used to be formally observed every three years, but now it’s twice a year,” Higgins explained. “We’re used to having administration in our room all the time, but to be watched and graded and critiqued … It’s very nerve-racking. We’re all walking on eggshells.”
Higgins said that she hopes once her first evaluation is behind her, it will become a “run-of-the-mill” routine, but it is a change she believes she will need time to get used to.
Ashley Olive, 21, a student teacher, said that she is comfortable with the evaluation process, adding that it is all she has ever been taught.
“It will definitely be a change for teachers who have to switch from their old evaluations to this one though,” Olive said.
The evaluation system is broken into three components: Teaching performance accounts for 60 percent of the evaluation, 33 percent is tied to student academic success, and 7 percent accounts for continuous school improvement.
Teachers’ performance will be rated using state labels of “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective.”
Shawn Foster, 51, a Whittier fifth-grade teacher, underwent her evaluation on Sept. 14.
Foster said being able to do a self-evaluation is helpful.
“So far, it seems to be a good thing,” Foster said. “We can have at least some input so we aren’t just waiting around to see what someone else thinks of us.”
Lesar said the evaluation tool is intended to “improve the practice of teaching and learning,” but Foster said “only time will tell.”