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Greenfield to implement teacher evaluations

GREENFIELD — After two years of negotiations, Greenfield Public School teachers and administrators will begin evaluating teachers this fall using the new state educator evaluator system.

A team of about 12 to 20 educators, including some administrators and teachers with representation from the elementary, middle and high school levels, will start training in the new system in August, after which teachers will be expected to understand the new expectations and administrators will put the new standards in place.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted new regulations on June 28, 2011 for the evaluation of all Massachusetts educators that would include MCAS scores. The new system was part of the state’s bid to receive federal Race to the Top money, which required the development of a new teacher evaluation system based on student achievement data.

Districts, like Greenfield that accepted federal Race to the Top funds are required to adopt the more rigorous statewide evaluation system, for which some of the federal funds are earmarked.

The regulations, which apply to all superintendents, administrators and teachers throughout the state, are designed to promote growth and development amongst leaders and teachers, place student learning at the center, using multiple measures of student learning, growth, and achievement, recognize excellence in teaching and leading, set a high bar for professional teaching status, and shorten time lines for improvement, according to the state.

After reaching an agreement, the school administration under Superintendent Jordana Harper quickly began scheduling training dates for educators. The new superintendent had previously worked with Chicopee on the joint labor-management negotiations team negotiating the educator evaluation system and saw it into implementation. She also worked with Springfield which was in its third year of implementation as a Level 4 district, Harper said.

Greenfield is late to the game.

Most Race to the Top districts began implementing the new educator evaluator system two years ago, but the Greenfield evaluations were delayed due to negotiations. The Greenfield Education Association and school department signed off on the agreement for the system last week.

Part of the delay was due to a miscommunication between school administration and the union on whether the state model could be negotiated. The former school administration under Susan Hollins had believed the system was not negotiable, but the local union contended otherwise.

Last year, the Greenfield Education Association and Greenfield School Committee each filed unfair labor practice charges against one another. Negotiations were particularly strained by a trespass order the school board placed against the union’s Massachusetts Teachers Association field representative Paul DeMarco in March 2013, which banned him from setting foot on Greenfield school grounds for one year.

Last year, as negotiations continued, the state education department had threatened Greenfield that it would take back its Race to the Top money unless it got the evaluations underway.

The new evaluation system focuses on improvement by sharing successful teaching methods and creating improvement plans for unsatisfactory teachers

“The goal is to help provide consistent high quality feedback to improve teaching,” Harper said.

The new evaluations are more collaborative and are designed to improve teaching methods that are best for students, Greenfield Education Association Vice President Ann Valentine said. Like educators statewide, the 180 Greenfield district teachers will be rated on four performance designations from “exemplary’’ to “unsatisfactory.”

Educators will be evaluated on four standards based on curriculum and planning, teaching all students, family and community engagement, and professional culture.

Teachers will receive educator plans upon evaluation that would provide educators with feedback for improvement, professional growth and leadership and to ensure educator effectiveness and overall system accountability.

Teachers would be asked to develop portfolios of their and their students’ work that demonstrates they have met standards.

For any experienced educator who receives an evaluation rating of “unsatisfactory,” the school district could place the educator on an improvement plan. If the teacher continually fails to meet the standards and improve, the teacher could be subject to termination.

The new state system replaced the older model that was often criticized for being sporadic and inadequate with only two rating categories — satisfactory and unsatisfactory. The old system had no mechanism for improvement.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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