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Opinion: Teacher Evaluations, Figure It Out

Teacher evaluations remains a critical point of contention between the board and the teachers' union.

Opinion: Teacher Evaluations, Figure It Out

Teacher Evaluations remain a critical point of contention between the and the teachers’ union.

My understanding, based on information from the January 9 board meeting is there is a current evaluation document in place that was created by both the administration and the union representatives several years ago.

This is a model that the teachers are still pleased with, but the board wants to revamp. Steve Schwartz, the Board of Education’s designated speaker at the January 9 meeting, said this was so they could evaluate “technology.”

Schwartz also said that the Board wanted the evaluation document to be a “living, breathing document” that the board and union could develop together, but that final say would be the Board’s decision.

 That was all stated in the same sentence—as the entire audience that was present burst out in laughter at the contradiction—let’s work together, but in the end we (the board) will make the final decision. It is understandable why the union is hesitant to agree to that.

Schwartz Representation Not Totally Accurate

Schwartz also stated at the meeting that the Illinois Education Association had approved a new evaluation instrument. This is not a factual statement. In researching this issue, I found out that this issue of Teacher Evaluations is an incredibly “hot” topic across the country.

In January 2010, the Performance Evaluation Reform Act was signed into Illinois law.  This act’s main focus alters the way teacher and principal/assistant principal evaluations will be conducted in coming years, focusing on “evaluating teachers and principals based on how much their students learn.”

From this law came the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PERA), comprised of educators at all levels in our state working together to develop a new evaluation model based on the new guidelines.

This model should be in effect by spring and districts can choose to utilize the State developed model or build in the key components of the model into a joint document developed by a local teachers’ union and board of education.

This revised model must be in place by 2016 in Deerfield and if an agreement cannot be reached jointly, “the district shall implement the model evaluation plan established by the State Board of Education”. Interesting.

Both Sides Need More Education

So, basically we have a board and administration that does not have all of its ducks in a row in terms of facts and a teachers union that is making a pretty huge stink about a model that will likely be altered significantly within the next four years anyway, based upon the law.

I understand the teachers are concerned about the here and now and four years seems far off, but there is some pretty clear language about what is on the horizon and what guidelines will need to be met.

I have trouble believing that with all of Deerfield’s education leaders sitting around the table, that the board, administration and union cannot come to a fair, rationale, responsible, dare I say excellent evaluation model for our teachers. Within a few minutes researching online, I found several models that could be a starting point for discussions. 

To the board, administration and union: Figure this out. Please. Reports of agreement on recent points are a step in the right direction. I know evaluations are a point of great contention. There is a lot of information to work with—please work together and continue to take positive steps toward resolution. For our teachers, for our children, for our community. Please.

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