Pa. House approves teacher evaluation bill

State's largest teachers union is among supporters

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HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania teachers soon may be evaluated in part on the performance of their students after legislation cleared the House on Thursday with the support of Senate leaders and Gov. Tom Corbett.

Current law prevents the use of test scores or other measures of student achievement to judge teachers, leaving districts to rely on classroom observation. Under the proposal that unanimously passed the House, evaluations would be evenly split between observation and various measures of student performance.

The proposal represents an agreement with Mr. Corbett and the Senate, and it is expected to be included in legislation accompanying the state budget. Mr. Corbett has advocated for changing how teachers are evaluated, and he praised the House for advancing the bill.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, said including student performance would provide teachers with feedback that could help them improve.

"Our goal is to put in place a tool that provides teachers with useful and meaningful feedback," he said.

Under the proposal, school principals would be evaluated in part on the performance of teachers in their building.

The legislation that passed the House would not allow the disclosure of teacher evaluations by name, Mr. Aument said. It would take effect for teachers during the 2013-14 school year and for principals the following year.

The plan won the support of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, because it includes multiple measures of student performance, not just standardized tests.

"Educators are not afraid of having our performance evaluated," PSEA president Mike Crossey said in a statement. "We just want to be certain that our evaluations are based on the wide variety of factors that go into teaching our students. This proposal achieves most of those goals."

The student performance portion of a teacher's evaluation would include both building-wide and classroom-specific test scores as well as school graduation and attendance rates. School districts would be charged with developing measures, such as student projects or portfolios, that would account for 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation.

School principals would be evaluated on building-wide student data, including test scores and graduation, and on teacher evaluations, among other measures.

Lisa Fischetti, chief of staff at Pittsburgh Public Schools, applauded the House vote. The district has been developing a teacher evaluation system that includes student performance measures, and Ms. Fischetti said it will move quickly once the law takes effect.

"We strongly believe that effective teachers are what matter most in terms of accelerating student achievement and reducing racial disparities," she said. "And that the path to having an effective teacher is having a strong, reliable and consistent evaluation system."

Mr. Aument said the plan aligns with a pilot program of teacher evaluations run by the state Department of Education. More than 100 school districts and other local education units participated this year, although they were not permitted to include student achievement in official teacher evaluations.

education - state

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141. First Published June 29, 2012 12:00 AM


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