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Two Local Districts Helping Kansas Test New Way to Evaluate Educators

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Two metropolitan area school districts are pilot sites this year for a new educator evaluation program the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) is developing.

Administrators in the Spring Hill School District will be piloting the district and building leader evaluation programs, and some educators in the Kansas City, Kansas School District will be piloting the teacher evaluation program. Statewide, teachers in 11 of 293 public school districts are testing the new Kansas Education Evaluation Protocol (KEEP).

According to KSDE’s Memorandum of Understanding with these pilot sites, “Educators are critically important to the success of their students. Although everyone involved in education agrees on this point, there is also consensus that our current evaluation systems do a poor job of identifying teacher and administrator strengths and weaknesses and providing mechanisms for helping them to improve.”

The Education Testing Service (ETS) worked with the state education department and other stakeholders to develop KEEP. Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states have been required to evaluate school and district effectiveness based on how well students perform on standardized tests, such as those developed by ETS. Many educators have protested, saying the government is using these tests to measure things they were not designed to measure. Now it appears that the state board has worked with the testing agency to develop not a test but an evaluation procedure specifically for teachers and administrators.

New teacher evaluation procedures based on student academic development — such as the one being developed in Kansas — are required for states applying to be released from requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the Act, all schools must meet the NCLB requirements to close the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students by 2014. With that deadline only three years away, many state education officials are concerned that they will not achieve that goal and schools will suffer sanctions. The federal government released information about waiver requirements in late September. During their October meeting, the Kansas State Board of Education directed its staff to prepare a waiver request by the February deadline.

Waivers will not be necessary if the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Reauthorization has been pending since 1997. The No Child Left Behind Act is the current version of ESEA. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced plans to offer waivers, because the requirements of the Act seem to be unrealistic, and it did not appear that Congress was prepared to address this issue. However U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., this week released an ESEA reauthorization bill that is gaining bipartisan support. The original version of Harkin’s bill would have required states to design programs evaluating teachers based on student data, similar to the program Kansas is piloting this year. The bipartisan version of the bill, however, leaves the decision about how to evaluate teachers up to the states.

Although the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) is cooperating with the development of KEEP and this year’s pilot program, the teacher’s union has announced that it “will also continue to follow national discussions about appropriate data sources for teacher and principal evaluations, including measures of student learning.”

All districts –such as Kansas City, Kansas — that are recipients of federal School Improvement Grants are required to give KEEP a try this year. Other districts — such as Spring Hill — volunteered.

KSDE provided training to participating districts earlier this fall and will be making quarterly check-up visits. At the end of the school year, participants will provide reports about their experience for the state department of education to consider when considering whether to revise KEEP.

Stakeholders who helped the KSDE develop the new teacher evaluation protocol included administrators, board of education members, and teachers. The KNEA is working with the state department of education to develop and analyze the effectiveness of its new program.

The teachers union has to be involved, because — according to their website — “evaluation procedures are mandatory subjects of bargaining.”

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Read more about the Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol (KEEP): http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=lJoYcqhmVnQ%3D&tabid=4400&mid=11646

Read more about the Kansas National Education Association’s view on teacher evaluation: http://www.knea.org/home/1028.htm

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Read our Twitter feed for more education news from local, regional and national sources: http://twitter.com/#!/JW_Martinez

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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