When it Comes to Teacher Evaluations, Shorewood May Go it Alone
School Board decides not to join 28 other Wisconsin districts studying new system for reviewing teachers.
In September, 14 Shorewood School Board members, citizens and teachers formed a committee to work on a new grievance procedure for the district. That document defined teacher work rules, and board members said they wanted a fair policy — one not so stacked in the district's favor. School officials took a similar route with a new employee handbook.
Now, school officials can add teacher evaluations to a long list of matters to tackle.
Reform of how districts measure their educators is on the horizon in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker and state Schools Superintendent Tony Evers formed the Educator Effectiveness Design Team last winter to create new framework for teacher and principal evaluations.
Shorewood Superintendent Blane McCann said a portion of the teacher evaluation system will likely be based on student test scores and speculated 50 percent would mirror the current practice — administrators observing teachers in the classroom.
The state Senate has already weighed in on the discussion, passing a piece of legislation last week allowing districts to fire or discipline teachers based on the results of students' performance and test scores.
Not all School Board members agreed at Tuesday night's meeting to the notion of convening a diverse group in Shorewood to discuss the matter, but they were consistent on the fact they wanted to take an active role.
Not ready to team up with others
The board unanimously voted against joining nearly 30 other southeastern Wisconsin school districts in a consortium tasked with creating a new teacher evaluation system and influencing state officials constructing a standardized evaluation system.
Board members said they didn't know enough about the group headed by Pewaukee and Waukesha school officials to confidently vote yes, but may revisit the matter at a future meeting.
"The whole idea of bringing together a diverse body with diverse views is that hopefully there will be an exchange of information that results in the development of a good product," board member Michael Mishlove said. "Doesn't always work that way; it might not work that way."
The Southeastern Wisconsin Teacher Evaluation Consortium hopes to tap teachers and board members from all over the region to create a new method for evaluating teachers after about two to four years of research, McCann said.
Board member Rob Reinhoffer said Shorewood might want to take the same approach to evaluations as the district took to the employee handbook and grievance policy.
"We have a lot of smart people in Shorewood...we can bring them in and work on this together and create a model," Reinhoffer said.
"I don't know how this model is going to reflect the values of our community, if we sign up (for the consortium) and do nothing else."
McCann wants district to participate
It would cost the district $1 or $2 per student to participate, depending how many districts sign up. McCann, who recommended that the board vote to join the group, estimated it would cost Shorewood about $2,000.
"Some people say, 'Why join when the state is going to do it to us?' " McCann said. "But I think we should try to become part of the conversation and try to influence the conversation regarding teacher evaluations.
"It would be nice to link into some of the research that's going to come from some experts."
Shorewood teachers at Tuesday's meeting balked at the notion of an evaluation method based on student achievement or test scores.
"I think most of our teachers here, when they say they teach in Shorewood, are very proud of that," "I think it’s the philosophy of being judged on a test...but there is more to it."
"I'm not convinced that this is best practice for teacher evaluation," Lake Bluff Elementary teacher Sachin Pandya said. "There are other models to investigate.
"I'm concerned we are being sucked into the movement toward just examining data."
High school science teacher Cynthia Zauner said there's much more to teaching than just test scores including some intangible aspects you can't measure.
Some board members said with the cost associated with joining the consortium, the nature of state politics right now and the idea that they may not really have a true voice among 28 other districts, participating in the consortium may not be ideal for the district.
"This is in preparation for a (state) mandate, I understand that, but I have to say given the actions of our state government of late, I just have no reason to believe they would ever take any input for anyone on this matter," School Board member Colin Plese said.
Will districts' voices be heard?
High School social studies teacher Debra Schwinn said she shares Plese's concern after thousands of teachers in February and March protested out on the doorsteps of the Capitol and their concerns were still ignored by lawmakers.
"In an era where every dollar needs to be used to the maximum benefit for every student...I need to understand a little better about what our direct benefit is going to be," she said.
Mishlove said he's pessimistic about whether the consortium would be able to influence the state on the structure of a new evaluation system and said it's a matter of capacity rather than structure.
Some local teachers said there is talk of some districts moving to a model where bonuses would be linked to teacher performance evaluations.
"I have real concerns about pay based on student achievement, especially in a district such as ours that doesn't have a lot of room for improvement," Mishlove said.