Teachers Face Changes

Payson schools plan shift to evaluation system that relies on student test scores, despite mixed results elsewhere

Payson Unified School District Office

Payson Unified School District Office Photo by Andy Towle. |

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This month, Payson Unified School District (PUSD) will reveal its new and improved teacher evaluation system.

Then again, it might not work —if Payson follows the national trend.

The PUSD school board on Dec. 17 adopted a set of teacher and principal evaluations based on the West Central Regional Service Center (WCRSC) evaluation tool. Superintendent Ron Hitchcock said PUSD planned to alter the evaluation to reflect the culture of the district.

The WCRSC system calls for principals to observe each teacher nine times in a school year — about once a month. The evaluations would also rely on student test scores.

A three-year study from the Gates Foundation shows that unless multiple types of evaluation tools are used, the district might not get the results it seeks.

The Gates Foundation Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project evaluated teacher evaluation systems nationwide and concluded that a good system should include classroom observations, student achievement and student feedback.

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Ron Hitchcock

“Teaching is complex, and great practice takes time, passion, high-quality materials, and tailored feedback designed to help each teacher continuously grow and improve,” said Vicki Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready — U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a press release.

A report on teacher evaluations by the National Council on Teacher Quality points out that for the first time, evaluations may ignore a teacher’s certifications or degrees to focus on classroom observations and student test scores.

The Arizona State Legislature voted that student test scores must constitute at least half of a teacher’s evaluation.

The district doesn’t have to use AIMS, which is being phased out, but must use some standardized test like DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and STEEP (System to Enhance Educational Performance).

Hitchcock adopted as a base systems already created by the Mohave, La Paz, Yavapai and Yuma county schools, but told the board he’ll adapt the system to Payson’s needs by the end of April.

Across the nation, those states that have adopted the Common Core Standards must revamp their teacher evaluations.

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