New teacher evaluation system to take root in Lansing School District

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By Ryan Squanda
The Lansing Star

Lansing — Focused on properly serving the district’s 12,000+ students, as well as protecting and rewarding good teachers, a new teacher evaluation system for the Lansing School District is on the horizon this year.

For Dr. James Bell, a teacher in the Lansing School District as well as board member for the Lansing Schools Education Association (LSEA), a revised evaluation system was needed.

Members of the Lansing School Board discussed the new teacher evaluation plan for upwards of two hours on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Members of the Lansing School Board discussed the new teacher evaluation plan for upwards of two hours on Thursday, Oct. 2.

According to Bell, who spoke out on the issue at Lansing’s School Board meeting on Oct. 2, schools need an evaluation system like the new one in Lansing that is focused on building support for teachers, rather than inadvertently penalizing them through flawed procedures.

And according to numerous people involved in the district, what makes this teacher evaluation different and what will allow them to do the things Bell believes every evaluation system should, is the revised rubric the teachers are set to be scored upon this year.

“I think the idea of revisiting our evaluation process had to do with wanting to make sure we had a tool in place that was giving us good data about the quality of the teaching that was taking place in our classrooms across the district,” District Transformation Coordinator Ben Botwinski said at the meeting. “And in order to do that, it led us to this idea of needing to go back and revisit the rubric itself.”

According to a presentation at the school board meeting, the system will begin with a review evaluation process in the fall, followed by both goal setting by teachers and an extended observation period and will conclude with a summative evaluation in the spring.

Most of the district’s teachers will be assessed on the very same in-depth 100-point scoring system, with special modifications being made for Lansing’s struggling Eastern High School.

Teachers will be evaluated in several categories of their job and will receive a possible 34 points for student growth, six for goal setting, 18 apiece for planning & preparation, classroom instruction and classroom environment, and six for attendance, with a series of subcategories for each of these.

For Eastern, which is labeled by the state as a failing school, teachers will be evaluated on a similar scale, only theirs will feature special emphasis on commitment to school community and core professionalism.

The whole process will take some time to get through, no doubt. However, according to many of those involved in the creation of this new process, this particular evaluation system is leaps and bounds better than previous critiques teachers have been subject to in the district’s past.

“As a teacher, my personal experience with teacher evaluation systems were people just had to do it,” Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said. “Student achievement wasn’t even a factor and it didn’t provide much meaningful information.”

Caamal Canul even went on to call out the old system for “the ambiguity and the alleged capriciousness and arbitrary nature” of it and also for the way it “did not quantify any of the rubrics and you just ended up magically with some rating.”

However, that won’t be the case this year, according to Caamal Canul, as the revamped rubric makes things very clear what is expected of teachers.

And after a series of meetings with principals to eliminate the variance between their evaluation decisions, so as not to have equal teachers receiving different scores across different schools, Caamal Canul says she’s heard nothing but good things in terms of the new teacher evaluation system.

Susan Cheadle-Holt, the principal of Lansing Everett High School, who has sat through these meetings, can echo some of these same sentiments.

“The teachers that I have spoken to are glad to know exactly what they are being scored on and what should be expected of them,” Cheadle-Holt said. “The rubric makes it more specific what teachers are actually doing in terms of what is going on in the classroom.”

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