Montana looking into framework for statewide evaluations of teacher performance

State education officials are working on a new system for evaluating Montana teachers. Currently there is no statewide process for regularly assessing teacher performance. This proposal would set some minimum standards.

Montana Office of Public Instruction Assistant Superintendent Dennis Parman says the office is rewriting state school accreditation standards and “for the first time we’ll have in those standards a framework for evaluation for teachers and school leaders.”

As we told you last month a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality gave Montana an ‘F’ for its teacher policies. The lack of a statewide teacher evaluation system is a big part of that failing grade. Currently individual school districts are responsible for their own evaluations. Parman says leaders have been working on this statewide proposal for a year and a half. He says it is not a response to the National Council on Teacher Quality Study. And when he calls the new standards a framework he means a list of the things districts should be assessing. See the framework and list here.

Parman calls this a statewide vision of the “What” of teacher evaluations. But the “How,” of evaluations—how they’re conducted–that would still be up to the districts.

“They probably have the best sense of what’s going to work where they’re at, the size of the school district, the culture of the community,” Parman said. He brings up some districts that he says are leading the way in developing new evaluation systems, pointing to Kalispell, Thompson Falls and Helena.

Helena Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Steve Thennis says they are in the first year of their new evaluations. Administrators conduct two formal interviews with instructors and at least two classroom walk-throughs.

“The walk-throughs can happen at any point in time and really they’re just brief checklists,” he said. “I’m gonna come in, I’m gonna be in your room for a short period of time and I’m just gonna check in on some of the things that I see.”

Teachers also write their own self-evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. Thennis says this is increasing conversations with instructors about the science and art of teaching, adding it’s far better than looking at how teachers score on a test.

“We want to stay away from that because that’s frought with all kinds of problems when you try to tie a test score to a teacher evaluation,” Thennis said.

He largely agrees with leaving the substance of evaluations up to individual school districts. But he does see some advantages to using a standard process across the entire state.

“I think it does create some transparency. You’re saying that hey we have a great teaching staff, well how do you know?” he asked.

Assistant Superintendent in the Office of Public Instruction Dennis Parman says with the new framework districts like Helena likely would not have to change much of anything.

“Really the intent as I’ve always characterized it is to raise the lower floating boats if you will. That districts that haven’t look at their evaluation processes for quite a while or developed a process that wasn’t research based this will force them to move the needle in that direction,” Parman said.

Superintendent Denise Juneau will bring a formal recommendation on the new framework to the Board of Public Instruction.

If the board approves the state would implement the program in July of 2013.

One thought on “Montana looking into framework for statewide evaluations of teacher performance

  1. Wow, I’m a teacher in AZ, originally from MT. Our evaluations give each teacher a letter grade, if you are less than a C teacher you kiss your job goodbye. We get at least 2 “data” walks or walkthroughs a week here. Teachers here are under a magnifying glass. Let’s see, I teach to the test thanks to NCLB and I feel scrutinized by the world around me. Why did I choose this profession again?

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