Good news came Tuesday to a handful of school districts that hadn’t received state approval yet for their teacher and principal evaluation plans.
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Galway and Schoharie central school districts all got the OK from the state Education Department.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Superintendent Patrick McGrath said there were no substantive issues with the plan, but the district had to fix technical problems with getting the document into the right format and had to clarify a few issues.
“We didn’t really need to change our plan. We needed to make sure we explained to them clearly about what we’re trying to do,” he said.
State officials were responsive and willing to work with the district, McGrath said.
“Even over the weekend, they were emailing and we were going back with edits,” he said.
School districts must have their plan approved by Thursday in order to be eligible for an increase in state aid this year, which varies by district but averages around 4 percent.
As part of its application to receive $700 million in federal Race to the Top funding in 2010, New York developed a new teacher evaluation system more formally known as the Annual Professional Performance Review. Under a state law passed in 2011, 20 percent of the evaluation’s score is based on standardized test scores, another 20 percent on locally developed tests and the remaining 60 percent on classroom observation and other traditional evaluation plans. Individual districts had to negotiate their own plans with their unions.
For its evaluation, McGrath said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake is creating goals for an entire building and everyone receives the same score based on the percentage of students that meet that goal.
The observation component is strengthened under this new system, according to McGrath. Even tenured teachers are going to be observed two or three times a year, probationary teachers as many as six times. All observations will be done using the same set of standards for good teaching.
“You’re looking for evidence, you’re not looking for opinions or thoughts or ideas,” he said.
The Galway Central School District had its plan approved around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to interim Superintendent William Scott. In this case, the plan was held up over ongoing discussions with the union on the point scale for the four rankings of teachers: “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective.”
Like McGrath, Scott said state officials have been helpful throughout the process.
“I don’t think it’s any different than any other school district,” he said. “It’s a new process. That’s a challenge to everybody, and we’re working through it.”
Schoharie Superintendent Brian Sherman indicated in a voicemail message that his district’s plan was also approved Tuesday.
Northville interim Superintendent Debra Lynker could not be reached for comment on the status of that district’s plan.
Others plans that have been approved this month are Cobleskill-Richmondville, Duanesburg, Fonda-Fultonville, Middleburgh, Oppenheim-Ephratah, Saratoga Springs, Sharon Springs and Shenendehowa.