Pittsburgh schools ready new evaluations

Board to vote on proposals May 28

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While teacher evaluations have attracted the most attention, Pittsburgh Public Schools is gearing up for new systems to evaluate principals, central office administrators, and counselors and other nonteaching professionals.

Statewide, school districts are required to put into effect a new evaluation system for teachers this school year. In the upcoming 2014-15 school year, school districts throughout the state are required to have new evaluation systems for principals and nonteaching professionals.

Although not required, Pittsburgh also is adding a new evaluation system for central office administrators in 2014-15.

"We felt that with the high accountability that's on school leaders and school staff, it doesn't make a lot of sense in the system not to hold your central office staff accountable to the same rigorous standards," said Jerri Lynn Lippert, chief academic officer, in an interview.

The school board, which is expected to vote May 28, discussed the proposals Monday night.

The central office evaluations will cover about 70 administrators next school year. This school year, a portion of the system is being piloted with about 20 cabinet and other senior-level administrators.

Half of it will focus on performance priorities that are set by the employee and supervisor but are in keeping with the district's overall goals.

Another 35 percent will evaluate professional practice in seven areas, such as leadership and vision; productive relationships; planning and implementation; and leading for equity.

The remaining 15 percent will include 10 percent "stakeholder perceptions," which has not been defined, and 5 percent district student achievement and growth, which may use the state School Performance Profile academic score.

For the other two groups, if the board agrees, the district will be seeking state approval to use alternative forms from what the state uses.

In recent years, Pittsburgh has been working to improve principal evaluations through a program known as PULSE. The district wants to continue using the criteria developed under PULSE for gauging observation of school leadership, also called professional practice. Some of the factors include aligning a school vision, mission and strategic goals; building a collaborative and empowering work environment; and ensuring high-quality instruction.

As required by the state, the district still would use the same portions for the evaluation: 50 percent professional practice; 15 percent building-level results; 15 percent teacher correlation data; and 20 percent elective data. The latter have not been fully defined by the state. For building-level results, the district is proposing using the state School Performance Profile academic score for half of that portion and the district's own value-added measurement for the other half.

For nonteaching professionals ranging from counselors to nurses, the district plans to use the same standards as the state sets: 80 percent observation and 20 percent student outcomes. However, it plans to seek permission to use a different form so that it is in keeping with the format of the forms used for other evaluations.

Some board members thought district student achievement and growth should count for more than 5 percent in the central office evaluations.

Some questioned whether a category on "positive mindsets" would discourage dissent. School superintendent Linda Lane said dissent is encouraged, but the category is aimed at employees treating each other civilly.

Board member Carolyn Klug said she didn't want the evaluations to "become punitive," adding, "I've seen too much of that with the teachers."

The first evaluations to be affected by a state law passed in 2012 are those for teachers, who used to be evaluated solely on observation. The state's new system calls for half to be observation and half to be student outcomes. Pittsburgh, which had been working on developing its teacher evaluations for several years, has one-year approval from the state to modify the way student outcomes are counted, including using the district's own value-added measurement and a student survey. Like other districts in the state, half the Pittsburgh teacher evaluations will be based on observation.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. First Published May 12, 2014 9:33 PM

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