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Waterford's New Way To Evaluate Its Teachers And Principals

The school district is one of 10 across the state that will implement a new teacher and principal evaluation system.

Last week, Waterford administrators and five Waterford teachers spent three days in training with the state, set to be implemented this upcoming school year for teachers and principals.

Waterford is one of ten districts in the state that will pilot the new evaluation system this year, and then it will be mandated to every school district in Connecticut. The evaluation system is based partly on student performance, including student performance on standardized tests, partly on observations by a teacher's or principal's supervisor, and to a lesser extent based on feedback from parents and how well a school is doing overall.

“I think it is a tell-tale sign that things are changing very, very rapidly in public school education,” Waterford High School Principal Don Macrino said. “The real focus now is on 21st century skills, with a higher level of vigor expected at all levels.”

The system is straightforward and uses data like test scores to create a more objective evaluation system, Superintendent Jerome Belair said. Waterford already does many of the processes in the new evaluation system, but this solidifies those processes for all teachers in all five town schools, he said.

“We have pieces of all of this,” Belair said. “This is now woven together very tightly.”

How It Works

The evaluation system is, as Clark Lane Middle School Principal Jim Sachs put it, “tenure blind,” meaning all teachers and administrators will undergo the same evaluation process. The evaluation system rates teachers and administrators in four categories: exemplary, proficient, developing and below standard.

The aspects of the evaluation are weighted differently. They are as follows:

Student Performance, 45 percent of the evaluation: Half of this will be the performance of students on standardized tests within a teacher’s class (or for a principal, for the school). The system looks at student improvement, not just the final numbers.

The other half is based on student performance within the classroom, such as the work they are doing and the progress they’ve made. Principals again would be judged on all students within their schools.

Practice, 40 percent of the evaluation: This will be the result, at least for teachers, of principal’s evaluations of teachers in the classroom based on observations. Principals will observe all teachers formally at least three times in the classroom. For each observation, they will meet with a teacher beforehand, observe the teacher teach a class and then meet with the teacher again afterwards.

The principal will also observe all teachers three times informally, which could mean observing a class or observing them in a meeting with their peers, parents or students. The superintendent meanwhile will evaluate a principal by observing them in faculty meetings and other meetings with students, staff or parents.

Parent Feedback, 10 percent: Parent feedback will be garnered at the end of the year for both teachers and principals.

Performance of the school, 5 percent: The performance of the entire school will weigh into the evaluation of the teachers and the principal at that school.

Belair added that while the evaluation system has changed, the system to terminate teachers remains the same. A teacher or administrator who receives a below standard score will get a plan on how to improve themselves, and then have to show they are improving, he said. Otherwise, they could face termination, he said.

Reaction

Patch interviewed all five Waterford principals and Belair about the new evaluation system, and all who would comment on it said they were happy with it and happy that Waterford chose to be part of the pilot, with Oswegatchie Elementary School Principal Nancy Macione calling it an “honor.” because he wanted to help shape the evaluation system, rather than have it mandated to him next year.

He also said Waterford, along with the other nine districts, will receive far more support from the state than the rest of the districts will receive next year. Waterford had three-days of training and will have the Connecticut Department of Education for support whenever they need them because they are only one of ten districts in the program, instead of being one of more than 150 next year, he said.

“I think we are positioned to really make that transition (into the new evaluation system),” Belair said. “We’ll just be going through an adjustment.”

Great Neck Elementary School Principal Pat Fedor said that the new evaluation system is not much different than what Waterford is already doing. And Belair added that the focus of teachers and administrators will be "teaching and learning," and everything else will fall into place.

“We ought not worry about that kind of calculation,” Belair said. “If we are doing the right things in our practice, those things will take care of themselves.”

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