PA Ed. Secretary Questions Results of Study that Shows Nearly All Teachers and Principals Rated As Satisfactory

New PDE Evaluation Initiative to Improve Accountability

(GantDaily Graphic)

HARRISBURG – According to information collected from the 747 local education agencies throughout Pennsylvania, 99.4 percent of all teachers and 99.2 percent of all principals evaluated during the 2009-10 school year received a satisfactory rating, said Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.

“At first glance these results appear to be encouraging; however, they raise serious concerns about the quality of the evaluation system and whether it has any relevance to what happens in the classroom,” Tomalis said.  

“It is very difficult for me to rationalize how our state can have virtually 100- percent of educators evaluated as satisfactory when, based on the statewide assessment, one-in-four students are scoring below proficient in reading, and one-in-three are scoring below proficient in math. What’s more disturbing, based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than half of our fourth- and eighth-grade students are scoring below proficient in math and reading. I believe these results are a clear indication that our current evaluation system is in major need of change,” he added.

For too long, the state has allowed school districts to use inadequate and unreliable evaluation forms that rate educators as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” without consideration of their effectiveness in educating students.

“The current system makes it extremely difficult to be rated as unsatisfactory,” Tomalis said. “Each year, Pennsylvania taxpayers invest $700 million in educator professional development; students, parents and taxpayers deserve more accountability from those teaching in and operating our public schools, especially when the focus is preparing our children for the future.”

Reinforcing Governor Tom Corbett’s commitment to provide a world-class education to students across the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), funded by a nearly $800,000 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, has been developing a new, comprehensive educator assessment system.  As proposed, student achievement would count for 50 percent of an educator’s evaluation, which would lead to enhanced teaching and learning in the classroom.

Department of Education Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq today testified before the Senate Education Committee outlining the new evaluation proposal that would ensure the best educators are teaching in and leading the school districts throughout the state.

“Pennsylvania’s education system is at a point where it must redefine itself nationally and globally,” Dumaresq said, noting that it is imperative for students of the 21st century to be able to compete with their peers, not just across the United States, but throughout the world. “This new initiative would provide short- and long-term benefits to students, parents and taxpayers by evaluating educators with a tool that puts students first.”

During her testimony, Dumaresq presented an overview of the new evaluation system, which would consist of four components: classroom observations, school performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams, teacher performance and other criteria determined at the local level. PDE expects to implement the new evaluation system in 2012-13 school year.

“Governor Corbett and I are committed to ensuring that those in the front of the classroom and those leading our schools are adequately prepared and have the ability to engage students and make them successful,” Tomalis said.

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