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Park Rapids School Board approves teacher evaluation plan

About four years ago, Minnesota Statute required school boards and teacher representatives to develop a teacher evaluation and peer review for probationary and contract teachers through a joint, cooperative agreement.

The Park Rapids School Board approved an updated teacher evaluation plan at its Sept. 5 meeting.

The current Park Rapids planning committee comprises Jeremy Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Val Burton, Josh Cook and Marion Goeden from Education Minnesota and administrators Shawn Andress, Lance Bagstad, Joleen DeLaHunt, Jeff Johnson and John Schumacher.

"The purpose of the teacher evaluation is to improve student learning and success and improve and support qualified teachers and effective teaching practices," Burton told school board members.

School districts were required to begin teacher evaluations during the 2014-15 school year. The state provided a draft plan that was 85 pages long, Burton said, but the Park Rapids School District chose to create its own language.

"We have made a few changes. Now that we've done it for three years, we've kind of figured out what worked, what didn't work, what we could improve on, what we could expand on," Burton said.

A teacher's final performance rating is based on three components: teaching practice (50 percent), student learning and achievement outcomes (35 percent) and student engagement (15 percent).

Teaching practice, such as classroom strategies, planning and preparation, collegiality, will be measured using the Marzano's rubric, Burton explained.

"They have come up with 60 different things they have found were effective teaching strategies in a classroom," she said.

As for student achievement, Burton said "We kind of didn't make the bar on that one in the last three years, but we are focusing on it more now. What every teacher basically needs to do is, in whatever class they teach for a trimester or year, they need to do a pre-test and post-test to show students are improving. And the goal that we set for ourselves this year is that 90 percent of our students would improve."

The district chose two elements for teachers to work on to measure student engagement: clearing learning goals and scales.

"If you look at what really makes a difference in teaching and learning, that's one of the big ones," Burton said. "This will be our fourth year working on that."

One other element was added this year.

By statute, non-tenured teachers must be evaluated at least three times throughout each school year. The first evaluation must occur within the first 90 days of teaching service.

"We've set it up so every tenured teacher gets observed at least once every year," Burton said.

The district's plan states that observations may not be scheduled during the first two weeks or last three weeks of school.

Teachers are developing growth plans and peer reviews.

"It's really about learning from each other, but in a totally non-evaluative way. In fact, there's no documentation at all," Burton said of peer review. The intent is promote discussion and share ideas.

Self-assessment will also occur throughout the year.

If an administrator does not think a teacher is meeting performance standards, a teacher improvement plan is created. The teacher has one year to meet those goals. If the goals are unmet, there could be disciplinary action.

Elementary Principal Joleen DeLaHunt thanked Burton for her leadership on the district's plan.

"I think we have a good, workable thing for teachers and what we do," she said.

The board unanimously approved the plan.

In other business, the school board did the following:

• Approved Patrick Richard as the Middle School Student Council advisor.

• Approved Sondra Lowry as a long-term substitute Homebound teacher.

• Accepted the resignation of Amanda Farlee, part-time Century Adventures paraprofessional, and Jackie Campbell, an Early Childhood paraprofessional.

• Approved hiring Kevin Cederstrom as a Special Education paraprofessional and Raelyne Fieldsend, Jackie Campbell and Megan Mayer as Community Education preschool paraprofessionals.

• Accepted a $300 donation from Rotary to Park Rapids Business Professionals of America and a $100 donation from R. D. Offutt Company to the Park Rapids girls tennis team.

The next school board meeting is Monday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Frank White Education Center community room.