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Waterford School Officials Worry Pilot is Burying Staff in Paperwork

A variety of voices involved in Waterford’s school district agreed a new teacher and administrator evaluation system they are piloting is cumbersome and is too much paperwork.

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.”

Specifics

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.  

Possible Improvements?

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.”

Daniella Ruiz December 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM
another string/rope/harness/bridle/choke chain by the omnipotent government to keep their nascent sense of power in place? give them an inch and they want to take everyone under their 'blanket' policies. (and as usual, make the taxpayer bear the cost burden!) how about a camera in every classroom, with a direct link to some desk jockey in Hartford, let THEM do the evaluations? or Skype to let them do a personal teacher eval at some non-school time. ( no, bad idea, that would mean another department of education testing, cadres of overpaid (by the taxpayer) experts and a sorry load on their already defunct IT capacity.) on the other hand, why did this even come about? did they feel some sense of inaccuracy from previous 'tests' or local administrative reports? lets face it, they just don't trust the locals, they have no confidence in their veracity, their capabilities or perhaps know what the heck they themselves are supposed to do. so they throw all sorts of 'requirements' at us, do this, do that , do that again, if only to make it seem they are in some way a useful part of the system, concerned, but clueless! or is that too harsh, expecting some bang for the bucks they are somehow supposed to be responsible for, while handing it out like candy when it seems politically expedient? is there any way, we, the taxpayers, can demand a 'test' of those in office? or are we supposed to assume they are all up to snuff?
Reason able December 21, 2012 at 01:35 PM
With all of the government intervention in the last 30 years, are our children better off now? One hundred years ago when kids went to one room school houses some of those kids developed the greatest science of the 20th century. Perhaps a return to respect for teachers and letting them teach would be a huge advance in education. Let's no forget disciplining those who disrupt the learning process. And parents, be part of the education system. How many friggin' after school activities do your kids need to partake in? It's taking away from reading and homework and chores.
Daniella Ruiz December 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
has there been a slow change from 'being industrious' to something other than that? are our children becoming less 'industrious' (doing actual work, performing useful community activities, contributing to neighborhoods) to becoming enamoured with activities, such as endless competitive sports, media consumption (ie wasting time) and other, less than productive behaviors? employers have chosen to employ overseas workers, since they apparently are willing to produce. our successful society has become less of a humanitarian protector for our own, while rabidly scolding other countries regarding their own cruel, inhumane and totalitarian behaviors. we readily take in dogs off the streets, while castigating human souls and leaving them in the streets. of course, its much easier to get rid of the dogs if they hang around too long, as humanely 'executing' them is a daily affair, not so easily done to human animals, as those are just left to the elements. or should the humans act like doggies with baleful eyes, wriggling around, sniffing everything, barking at strangers and jumping at will? would that give them license to a good home?
Pamela December 21, 2012 at 10:40 PM
East Lyme high has some pretty bad info about one teacher in particular on rate my teacher . Com. I worry about my child because of the hate towards the teacher . Someday a student may go further than disliking her. Why aren't they checking out this teacher I have heard horror stories about.i am Is planning on calling the school after vacation about it.it seems the teacher is very critical of the students and does not hesitate to embarrass them in front of others. Very worried ...for my child
Daniella Ruiz January 01, 2013 at 08:52 PM
pamela>> teachers are like cops. they protect their own kind, even when they screw up or don't do their job.

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