Fayette and all other Kentucky school districts to implement a new evaluation process for teachers

Jonda Tippins, an assistant principal in Scott County, left, and Susan Simandle, a music teacher from Franklin County, participated in a Professional Growth and Effectiveness System exercise.
Jonda Tippins, an assistant principal in Scott County, left, and Susan Simandle, a music teacher from Franklin County, participated in a Professional Growth and Effectiveness System exercise. Herald-Leader

In the past, Beaumont Middle School teacher Laura Roche Youngworth said she has mainly been evaluated by a supervisor observing her classroom.

But under a new process that will be implemented statewide this fall, the Lexington French teacher will also be evaluated by how her students progress and gain enduring skills over time, by her self-reflection and by feedback from students.

Last year, Youngworth participated in Fayette County's pilot of the new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, which is designed to put an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every school to increase student achievement.

"I was really impressed with it because it provides a big picture of what a teacher is doing. My principal got a bigger vision of who I am as a teacher," Youngworth said.

Youngworth said she was able to collaborate with her principal, Kate McAnelly, to grow professionally.

"That really ... was lacking in the last system we had," she said.

Under the new system, teachers will be evaluated with the following designations: Exemplary, accomplished, developing or ineffective.

Kentucky Education Associate Commissioner Amanda Ellis said the evaluation system is more rigorous than in the past, but it provides officials with more insight. It provides more guidance and feedback to teachers, Ellis said.

"Our focus is not a gotcha system to be punitive with teachers, but it's really an effort to improve them as professionals," she said.

By 2015-16, districts will be required to factor the new evaluations into personnel decisions, which could include counseling teachers or putting them on corrective action plans.

An estimated 146 out of 173 districts, including Fayette County, have decided to make personnel decisions based on some aspects of the new evaluation system during the 2014-15 academic year, Ellis said.

On Thursday, Ellis gave the Kentucky Board of Education a progress report on the system, commonly called PGES.

Ellis told the Herald-Leader that under the new system, teachers and principals will in part, be evaluated on how students perform on state standardized tests.

Previously, there were different evaluation systems in the state's 173 districts. Though statewide standards were used, the evaluations were inconsistent and provided little feedback, Ellis said.

The new system requires teachers to be evaluated on how well they prepare and plan, on how well they know their students, and on classroom environment. Teachers will be expected to help all students — from those who are struggling to the high achievers — make progress.

Under the pilot, Youngworth said she provided evidence of how her students were progressing through specific tests. Students were able to express an opinion on her effectiveness. As part of her evaluation, she set a personal goal that she would have a better understanding of the content she was teaching.

Beaumont Middle School Principal Kate McAnelly said she and Youngworth collaborated to decide on the exemplary rating that Youngworth received.

"She was actually much harder on herself than I was," McAnelly said.

McAnelly said that as the new system is implemented statewide, she thinks it's important that "administrators be consistent."

Several statewide education groups, colleges and universities worked on the regulation that governs the new evaluation process. Higher education officials will be keeping the new evaluation system in mind as they develop teacher education programs, Ellis said.

Meanwhile, state education officials are providing training to help teachers, principals and superintendents navigate the new system.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said teachers have asked for more training and support to learn how student academic progress will be used in the evaluation.

The new system holds administrators accountable as well. Teacher performance will be a reflection of how well principals run their school, and principal performance will be a reflection of superintendents.

"For the first time ever, everybody's connected and it's all still focused on students growing," Ellis said.

The goal of the new system is not to increase a teacher's workload, but to transform the work a teacher is already doing, to get them to think about their work differently, Ellis said.

"I feel like it's worth the effort in changing," said McAnelly, "because it will make our teacher and principal workforce stronger and more effective for all students."