Local school districts examine teacher evaluation processes

State legislation passed in 2011 that sets requirements for teacher evaluations in Minnesota school districts takes effect at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts have made modifications to their evaluation systems in order to comply with the law, rather than follow the Minnesota Department of Education’s evaluation model.

District administrators and teachers have to agree on a plan, otherwise the state’s plan is automatically implemented.

Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota renewed the state’s Quality Compensation Program, Q Comp, and passed a new teacher development and evaluation plan two weeks ago.

To be renewed, Q Comp requires 75 percent of voting members’ approval in Anoka-Hennepin; it received far more with 98.5 percent.

Implemented in District 11 this year, Q Comp has worked well so far, according to AHEM President Julie Blaha.

“Teachers really are hungry for really good feedback,” Blaha said.

Under Q Comp, 90 percent of the district’s teachers are assessed annually by 30 peer evaluators.

The program incentivizes teachers to put forth their best work in the classroom, rewarding them with performance pay for staff development and met student achievement goals.

The new teacher development and evaluation plan, created by a team of district and teacher leaders, aligns nicely with Q Comp, according to Rum River Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Tom Powers. He, with Director of Employee Services Sarah Kriewall, led the design team in its work, which began more than a year ago.

Under the plan, principals will formally evaluate tenured teachers every three years, rather than every five years as current policy dictates. Principals will continue to evaluate probationary teachers annually.

Powers said that the language of the current performance appraisal system had to be tweaked to comply with the law, but he doesn’t think teachers will feel the changes.

More than 96 percent of voting AHEM members were in support of the new plan.

In Spring Lake Park, administrators and teachers worked together to develop their learning and evaluation system, calling the state’s model “ugly” in a presentation to the board in early April.

The state’s policy lays out a “score card” to which Union President Jim Stern doesn’t think teachers would be receptive, he said. “I don’t think teachers would really feel supported by a document that says, ‘You’re a 2.7 or a 3.2.’”

Ronneberg, who co-chaired the state working group that developed the state policy, agrees. “I really struggled with the idea of a teacher GPA.”

Spring Lake Park’s system follows the “spirit” rather than the “letter” of the law, Ronneberg said.

The premise of the new evaluation system is to focus on learning and improvement over evaluation, according to Jennifer Kunze, learning and teaching coordinator in the district.

Providing more intensive coaching support; better relating professional learning community and individual goals; and offering consistent feedback, culminating with a summative review every three years, are at the heart of Spring Lake Park’s proposed system.

The teachers union did not vote on the new system, but its executive committee unanimously supported it, according to Ronneberg.

Q Comp, in its fourth year in Spring Lake Park, will be embedded in the new evaluation process, Ronneberg said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]