The and School Districts aren't waiting for the state to tell them what to do regarding teacher evaluations.
They are among 30 districts who have joined the Southeastern Wisconsin Teacher Evaluation Consortium, in response to Gov. Scott Walker’s initiative in school accountability.
"That's the goal, to tie teacher compensation with the evaluations to make the evaluations more meaningful," Nicolet District Administrator Rick Monroe said at the October School Board meeting. He explained that part of the evaluation process will be things like student growth and progress.
Fox Point-Bayside District Administrator Rachel Boechler said it's about support for both teachers and students.
“In the advent of the changing educational landscape, it is important that we also recognize the important role the teacher plays in student learning and achievement," she said. "We are pleased to be working together with other strong school districts in the region to assure our teachers are given the support and guidance needed to hone their skills as educators in a 21st century learning environment.”
Tough to make the grade
National Public Radio did a story Oct. 20 that looked at a teacher evaluation program in Tennessee. This district won grant money for a program called Race to the Top for getting its new program underway quickly. But now those teachers are barely scoring at an average level, and that's having a negative effect on morale. Monroe referenced this case during the board meeting and said to build a strong and fair teacher evaluation system, it's going to be a slow process.
"It's going to take time. Every state is grappling with this," Monroe said. "This is definitely going to take a lot of work. It will help determine staff development, staff improvement, you name it, a host of things."
The list of participating districts includes Fox Point-Bayside, Franklin, Germantown, Hamilton, Hartland/Lakeside, Kettle Moraine, New Berlin, Norris, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, Swallow, Waukesha and West Bend school districts.
An independent approach
While many districts are joining the movement to develop a joint evaluation system, is not.
The consortium isn't just about a coordinated evaluation system, there's a cost catch — each school district is contributing $1 per pupil enrolled in their school district to participate in the consortium work. This fee will cover the costs associated with consultants, supplies, research and related items the group uses to assist with the process. It's one reason Maple Dale declined to join the group.
“It’s an investment in time and energy with staff,” District Administrator Mary Dean said. “Nicolet joined last week and they have many administrators and are much larger. The smaller the district, I think it’s a larger proportion and impacts the district.
"Plus, the consortium did request that there be six administrators and teachers involved. We only have two administrators so we’re very tiny,” she said.
However, despite the district's small size, Dean said it has formed its own committee and is focused on making its evaluation system effective for both teachers and students.
“We cannot afford to invest in one of the great big systems, but we are developing our own from the very current research on best teacher practices,” Dean said. “It’s apparent that an effective teacher in the classroom has a tremendous effect on the quality of education. What we are attempting to do is to find the best evaluation tools that will assist us in assessing and evaluating and supporting quality teachers in the classroom.”
Can an effective evaluation system weed out the teachers that are less qualified and less effective in the classroom?
“In a large district or in a district where it doesn’t know its teachers very well, absolutely it can,” Dean said. “I don’t feel that’s applicable in Maple Dale because I know them so very well. We’re such a small district so it’s really to just bring us in line and help develop the finest educators we can develop in our classrooms.”