At the close of the 2011-2012 legislative session, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed Act 82 of 2012 into law on June 30, 2012.  Act 82 made several substantive changes to the Pennsylvania Public School Code, including a complete overhaul of the teacher evaluation system which goes into effect for the 2013-2014 school year.  The evaluation overhaul applies not only to teachers, but also to principals and other “nonteaching professional employees,” although those groups of employees will not be subject to the new evaluation rubric until 2014-2015.  For purposes of this article, we will address only the new provisions applying to teachers.

Beginning next school year, all tenured teachers and temporary professional employees will be evaluated based on two sets of criteria.  The first set of criteria—the “classroom observation and practice models”—contain the categories of “planning and preparation,”  “classroom environment,” “instruction” and “professional responsibilities.”   These criteria are similar to the current evaluative standards and will likely be assessed and applied in much the same way as the current ones.

However, the second set of criteria is completely new.  Under the law, 50% of a teacher’s overall rating will be based upon multiple measures of student performance.  That 50% of a teacher’s overall rating will be apportioned as follows:

(1)   Fifteen percent (15%) of the rating is based on building-level data such as student test scores, value-added assessment system data (PVAAS), graduation rates, promotion rates, attendance rates, AP participation and SAT/PSAT scores;

(2)   Fifteen percent (15%) of the rating is based on teacher-specific data including but not limited to student achievement attributed to a specific teacher, as measured by student assessment performance, value-added assessment system data (PVAAS), progress in meeting IEP goals and locally-developed school district rubrics; and

(3)   Twenty percent (20%) of the rating is based on elective data, which are measures developed by school districts and approved by PDE, which could include district designed measures and assessments, nationally-recognized standardized tests, industry certification requirements and student projects or portfolios developed under local standards.

Under the new law, a variety of student achievement measures are to be considered in evaluating teacher performance.  At present, PDE is developing a draft of its statistical model for evaluating building-level data.  The statistical model will assign weight to student achievement data as measured by PSSA scores.  The Department must also approve the measures which may be used by school districts for the elective data portion of the teacher evaluation.  The current teacher evaluation forms will need to be revised.

Needless to say, it will be a very busy year for both PDE and school districts in preparing for implementation of the new teacher evaluation system.  We will keep you updated as to any developments coming from Harrisburgin upcoming editions of Education News and through our firm’s website.  In the interim, your district should begin to identify which measures will be used as elective data.  Which assessments currently in place in your district are the most useful in demonstrating the progress your students are making?  Are there other current assessments which may not be aligned with your curriculum or which are not insightful in demonstrating the impact you are making on student achievement?  For districts or schools which have not utilized portfolio or project-based assessments, it may be advisable to explore those options.  By this time next year, your teachers will be evaluated in part based on data chosen by your school, and now is the time to identify those measures which are the most appropriate.

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Alfred Maiello

Alfred C. Maiello is the founding member of MBM and has represented area school districts as solicitor for 50 years. He counsels school districts and educational institutions on leading developments in school law and guiding them through their day-to-day and long-term challenges.