Northwestern Lehigh Superintendent Mary Anne Wright spent over an hour during the school board meeting on Wednesday explaining and addressing district concerns regarding Education Act 82.
This Act, also known as House Bill 1901, required the Secretary of Education to establish a new statewide rating system for evaluating teachers, principals, and superintendents.
Governor Corbett signed this Bill into law earlier this year when the state passed the Education Budget.
Northwestern Lehigh School District will be following a Danielson Framework under Act 82. This framework is made up of four domains including planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities.
Wright explained that in the planning and preparation domain, the school district will be focusing on setting instructional outcomes, designing coherent instruction, designing student assessments, and demonstrating the knowledge of the content, resources, and the students themselves.
During the second domain the district will be focusing on creating a classroom environment of respect and rapport, establishing a culture for learning, organizing physical space, and managing classroom procedures and student behavior.
The third domain will center on communicating with students, engaging students in learning, using assessment in instruction, and demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness. The fourth and final domain will focus on maintaining accurate records, communication with families, and showing professionalism.
Wright agreed with all of the domains in the Danielson framework, but exhibited some concerns with another part of Act 82. Only half of the evaluation of the teaching staff will be based on observation by the building’s principal. The other half of the evaluation will be based on multiple measures of student performance.
The breakdown will be as follows: 15% building level data, including improvement on PSSA, PVAAS graduation rate, attendance, and SAT scores, 15% teacher specific data, including student improvement attributable to the specific teacher on PSSA, PVAAS, and IEP, and 20% elective data from an annual list approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The current teacher overall rating scale is a two-step system. The teacher is at either a satisfactory level or an unsatisfactory level. By adapting to the new scale established in Act 82, the district will have a four-step rating scale. Teachers can be at a distinguished level, a proficient level, a basic level, or an unsatisfactory level.
When asked about this new system, the principals of the district expressed both concern as well as enthusiasm for the switch. Northwestern Lehigh High School principal Aileen Yadush expressed a significant concern.
“Time [is the biggest concern at this point],” stated Yadush. She mentioned that it could take a few hours to evaluate one teacher with this system and she wants to give a fair evaluation to each teacher. “Ideally, [this system] would like us to evaluate each teacher two or three times a year,” she continued. Yadush expressed that this would prove to be difficult along with the other duties each principal is responsible for throughout the year.
“Although we have some concerns, I think as a group, we are all excited to learn this new system,” commented Northwestern Middle School principal Laurie Hoppes.
The other major concern expressed by Wright and her colleagues was the evaluation of nonteaching professionals including school psychologists, nurses, and educational specialists. The timeline for teacher evaluations and nonteaching professional evaluations are to be implemented at least one year apart. Wright explained that this would mean that some teachers would be evaluated while other colleagues in the same building may not be evaluated that year due to the timeline of the system.
“Professionals in the same building will be treated differently, which can’t lead to anything good,” she said.
Northwestern Lehigh School District will be piloting this system in the current school year in hopes to prepare some teachers and other professionals for the programs eventual mandatory implementation in the school system. The School Board will continue the discussion about this program at their next meeting and will periodically talk about any concerns they have throughout the year.