Portland may link student, teacher performance measures

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PORTLAND — More than a decade after it was created, the city’s teacher evaluation system is being revisited.

Portland Education Association President Kathleen Casasa said the changes are likely to start next year. They may include a link to student achievement.

“A lot has happened in education in 10 years,” Casasa said.

She said a small group of teachers and staff has been working on changes to the evaluation system for the past few years. In July, a group of eight teachers will travel to a two-day National Education Association conference to focus on revamping the system.

“The performance-based evaluation system has been under heavy discussion since October 2010,” Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. said. “We have to pilot it in Riverton and East End (Community School) because they’re School Improvement schools.”

The two elementary schools were labeled Schools in Need of Improvement after student test scores failed to meet benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, the two schools applied to become “turnaround” schools, which requires some drastic changes, including replacing half the teaching staff, administrators and new models of teacher evaluation.

“Administrators are enthusiastic supporters of having performance-based evaluations on ourselves,” Morse said.

However, he said, with teacher evaluations, it’s important to balance student performance against other issues, such as professional development and how the teacher contributes overall to the district.

Casasa said the teachers want a system with more frequent, competent evaluations and better feedback.

“If you go into a building and ask (a teacher), ‘Do you have a good evaluation process?’ they’re going to say no,” Casasa said.

It is unclear yet if teacher evaluations will be connected directly to student achievement, although that is something the district is considering as part of the pilot program that will be rolled out this fall.

“It will have to be multiple measures,” Casasa said. “Not just one test and not just once a year.”

Morse agreed, saying that he believe student performance should be part of teacher evaluation, but not the entire piece.

“You have to balance student performance against other issues you’d judge a professional on,” he said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.