Though the move is required by law, the board voted 4-3 in favor of it May 29, with both Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci and Board Vice Chair Randy Scamihorn voting no. Board member Brad Wheeler also opposed the move.
Other board members, including Tim Stultz and David Banks, indicated they also did not favor the new evaluations.
The new evaluation system will grade how teachers are doing based largely on the results of student test scores. Created by the Georgia Board of Education, some say the new evaluations will cost each district time and money to create, and will tie student achievement on tests to teacher evaluations.
Evaluations for most courses are provided by the state, but Georgia’s 181 school districts must create their own evaluations for subjects such as music, art and physical education, which do not have standardized tests to measure student progress.
Too much money?
The top issue for some school board members was the money involved.
“I cannot support this,” Angelucci said. “We’re spending $890,000 when we’re only getting $20,000 from the state and, as my colleagues have stated, this is yet another unfunded mandate that we have begged our legislators and our state representatives to discontinue.”
Though there are pilot districts working to create evaluations for the rest of the state, Scamihorn said the district has had problems accessing them.
Most of the $890,000 will be used to pay teachers to create the evaluations over the summer. It will also pay for substitute teachers who will man classrooms while teachers work on the test after school starts.
Scamihorn fears the amount of money spent will continue to climb as the evaluations are put in place. He also wonders how long this evaluation process will be around.
“I bet we move to something else five years from now, if not sooner,” he said.
The evaluation system was adopted in 26 districts — known as pilot districts — after Georgia received $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds, according to Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. The pilot districts were to serve as a model for the rest of Georgia’s districts. Pilot districts began adopting the evaluations two years ago. This is the last year Georgia school districts can implement the evaluations.
The new system will grade teachers annually based on how students perform in the classroom. Half of their evaluations will be based on test results, so if students have higher scores, the teacher will score higher on the evaluation.
Cardoza said one strength of the program is student performance is based on growth rather than just on test scores.
“Teachers will say this is not fair because I have students who come from poverty and they’re just not going to perform well,” he said. “The good thing about student growth percentile is it compares kids that are alike, come from the same background, generally scored in the same area, and your kids are then compared to like students in other classes and at other schools across the state. That way you can still grow or you can get credit for some growth.”
New evaluations versus old
The system isn’t perfect, but it’s a big improvement over the old one, said state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
“When this program was piloted by the state, we got very positive feedback in committee reports and from all accounts,” Tippins said. “It was one of the few pieces of legislation where we didn’t have a single negative person testify against it.”
Tippins, a member of the Cobb school board from 1997 to 2008, said under the old evaluation process, principals would observe teachers in the classroom a few times a year and give a grade of either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
He added the district had about 5,500 teachers at the time and one year, only seven teachers were reviewed as unsatisfactory.
“Just about any movement would have been an improvement,” he said. “If you don’t have an instrument to diagnose problems and have positive results, you are missing the boat. I think that’s one area where the education world has a deficiency, whereas the business world does not.”
But some teachers are worried about the effect of the new tests, said Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators.
“Teachers are much more than a test score or a snapshot evaluation,” Jackson said. “This hasn’t shown to be any more effective than any past teacher evaluations.”
Marietta more optimistic
While Cobb schools are starting the evaluations in the upcoming school year, Marietta City Schools implemented them two years ago.
For Marietta, the system has worked well, according to Randy Weiner, chairman of the school board.
“It’s a major improvement for how teachers can be evaluated,” Weiner said. “Before, it was basically two 20 minute visits into a classroom, with an administrator rating the teacher as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. This way, the teachers that are at the top will be recognized for being there.”
Weiner said Marietta Schools has paid $65,000 to create evaluations, in addition to hiring Raquel Rimpola at a salary of $98,782 to help implement the teacher evaluation system in August 2013.
It’s been well worth the investment, according to Weiner.
“It treats the teachers more like professionals,” he said. “It helps us identify teachers who are exemplary, not just whether they pass or fail.”