Plattsburgh on cutting edge of teacher evaluations

— Plattsburgh City School is close to finishing a teacher evaluation system that is to be a model for New York state, possibly the nation.

The school district, and five others in the state, was selected to create a new evaluation system according to guidelines pushed when the Obama administration rolled out Race to the Top. States that were awarded funding connected to that endeavor must revamp the way they evaluate teachers and administrators.

“We have worked out a document that focuses on the practice of teaching both inside the classroom and outside the classroom,” said Superintendent James “Jake” Short. “We have it based on quite a complex rubric we have designed.”

The new evaluation system measures teachers’ progress using local tools, with part of the process linking student test scores to the final grade. The new system outlines goals for continued progress and also makes it easier for districts to dismiss educators that repeatedly receive poor evaluations.

“It would not surprise me if funding gets tied to this,” Short said.

About two years ago, Plattsburgh became part of a grant with five other schools in New York State. The district’s main focus was to review peer assistance, and while that plays a major roll in the piece under development, the district also had to incorporate new regulations adopted by the state under Race to the Top.

Under the evaluation system created by Plattsburgh City School, 60 percent stems from direct observation. It is not a quick observation.

“This new system highly involves the teacher and principal all year long,” Short said. “They have to build a whole file of artifacts.”

Principals are required by state regulation to go through a training program and achieve certification to conduct the evaluations.

“All of our principals and supervisors have gone through the program,” Short said. “We are the first group to be certified in northern New York.”

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