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Column: District 518 teacher, principal evaluations changing due to new mandates

By Katie Clarke


District 518

WORTHINGTON — New Minnesota legislation will mean several changes for principal and teacher evaluations in school district 518. Minnesota Statute §122A.40 and Minnesota Statute §123B.147 requires evaluation elements beyond what many school districts are currently doing, including Worthington.

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Legislative-required teacher evaluation components now include: teacher growth and development plans, peer review, a teacher improvement process, student data results and student engagement measures. The principal evaluation is also now more complex, as statute requirements contain on-the-job observations, student academic growth results and surveys.

What do the new requirements mean for educators and administrators in the district? In addition to principals observing teachers using a standard performance rubric, teachers will also work with a peer reviewer to identify ways of increasing student engagement in their classroom. Additionally, teachers will develop strategic goals, develop and report on student data, and have a personalized professional growth and development plan.

The teacher evaluation system is required to be implemented at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. A district task force of teachers, administrators and school board members has been working since May to develop the process of how to meet the new legislative requirements.

Before the system can be implemented, the teachers union and school board need to jointly agree how each component will be addressed. The principal evaluation legislation is required to be implemented during this current school year. The school board has approved a principal evaluation system that meets the required criteria, and all district 518 principals are currently being evaluated with the new system.

The new mandate means additional work for both teachers and administrators, along with increased cost to the district. Tenured teachers were previously evaluated one time every three years by an administrator. The new mandate includes this same component, as well as a peer review every year. Probationary teachers under the old and new legislation have three evaluations per year by an administrator.

To accommodate the new mandate, new positions will be proposed to the school board in order to complete the peer review process. The statute requirements are estimated to cost the district approximately $350,000 and about $82 million across the state. General fund dollars will support these requirements, as this is an unfunded legislative state mandate.

The district has been proactive by restructuring positions to complete some of the evaluation work. The district teacher evaluation taskforce will put forward a set of recommendations to both the school board and teachers union, upon which both groups will need to approve.

Katie Clarke is the director of school improvement for District 518.