Thursday night at the Board of Education meeting, Waterford’s superintendent, administrators, board members and teachers all agreed that a new evaluation system they are piloting is a “huge amount of work”, with some arguing it is more about completing paper work than improving teachers.
“Doing paperwork isn’t going to make us better teachers,” said Quaker Hill Elementary School teacher Martha Shoemaker, who is also the head of Waterford’s teachers union. “It is time taken away that could be used planning our next lesson. We just want to be with our kids.”
Shoemaker said the teacher and administrator evaluation system involves far too much paperwork. Shoemaker said the system is particularly onerous on administrators, who are responsible for six observations of at least 30 teachers.
For example, Great Neck Principal Pat Fedor, who is the head of Waterford's administrators union, is charged with 36 teachers. Fedor is responsible for evaluating them each six times – three formally and three informally – meaning she is responsible for doing 216 observations from November to May.
Fedor didn’t complain about the extra burden, saying while it is a “huge amount of work, it is good work.” However, she said the evaluations add about two hours of work each night to her at home, on top of the job she was already doing.
Board of Education member Jody Nazarchyk was more direct. She said she is against the evaluation system, saying the focus of administrators should be the school, not the state.
“I don’t see how the administrators have time to do it,” Nazarchyk said. “We are paying them to be administrators for Waterford, not for doing paperwork for the state.”
This year, Waterford was one of 10 school districts that agreed to pilot a new evaluation system put forth by the state that will be rolled out to every town next year. The purpose of the evaluation system is to have a more standard and objective way of evaluating teachers and administrators, with each staff member earning one of four rankings: exemplary, proficient, developing and below standard.
Forty-five percent of the evaluation is from student performance, half of which is based off of standardized tests. Another 40 percent is practice, which involves an administrator evaluating each teacher or, in an administrator’s case, the superintendent or higher-ranked administrator evaluating him or her.
The administrator is expected to formally evaluate a teacher three different times, which means having a pre-conference with the teacher, watching that teacher teach a class for about 30 minutes and then having a post-conference. The administrator also must do three informal observations, which can be anything from observing them in faculty meetings to popping in on a class unannounced. Additionally, each teacher has to write goals for themselves that are evaluated at the end of the year.
The problem, Shoemaker said, is that the steps all require a lot of paperwork. Each step has to be painstakingly detailed on specific forms, and fill a teacher's day with busy work that many have described as "overwhelming", she said.
“Like going to the DMV?,” a reporter asked, referring to a another state-run program.
“What a perfect analogy,” said Great Neck Elementary School teacher Linda Brailey, who is the vice president of the Waterford’s teacher union.
The paperwork is particularly difficult on the administrators, as they have to write up each formal evaluation they do, Shoemaker said. Fedor said the paperwork is cumbersome, but it isn’t taking away from what the principals are doing now, it is just extending their workday.
Fedor suggested evaluating a third of her staff each year in rotation, so she would be responsible for doing 12 teacher evaluations instead of 36. Superintendent Jerome Belair, who said, “there is a great deal of work involved in this,” suggested four observations instead of six.
Shoemaker said one positive is there has been good communication between the administration and the teachers regarding the pilot. The group is giving feedback to the state, which promised to use that feedback to alter the evaluation system before it is mandated state-wide next year.
“We have not been bashful,” Belair said. “Hopefully our good advice will be taken into consideration.”