"We developed a system that grounded itself in several principles: continuous improvement; evidence-based results; inviting other people to be part of that critique," she said. "It's very different from an outsider telling you how you're doing."
Over the past several years, the district has developed its evaluation system, Teacher Evaluation Professional Learning. New Canaan's TEPL system is based on a guidebook of sorts for effective teaching. The guidebook is laid out in a rubric called the "Effective Teaching Framework."
Based on the framework, a teacher and an administrator create a professional growth plan for the teacher at the beginning of the year, according to TEPL Committee Chairman Kristine Woleck, who is also an assistant principal at East Elementary School. The teacher and administrator meet for an evaluation midway through the year and again at the end of the year.
The TEPL system is similar to the state's recommended evaluation program, which is being instituted statewide this year as a part of the new Common Core State Standards curriculum.
The New Canaan program is supposed to be tailored to the teacher's individual strengths and weaknesses, and growth is to be measured by more than just students' test scores, though they are a factor, Woleck said.
"What you see at growth conference is an administrator and a teacher looking together at a teacher's growth plan," Woleck said. "(This would include) performance data from students: standardized tests; portfolios; and more. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence (will be judged)."
Under the TEPL system, the teacher will be graded on a 1- to 4-point rubric in four categories: student growth, as measured by students' work and test scores; educator observation of practice, wherein administrators sit in on classes; learning community growth, which is based on an annual examination of "survey data and/or focus group data across stakeholders (parents, staff, etc.) to determine schoolwide Learning Community growth focus;" and whole school student learning, which also examines schoolwide student performance data.
The teacher's overall score is based on the grades for the four categories.
Student growth is weighted at 45 percent, educator observation of practice at 40 percent, learning community growth at 10 percent and whole school student learning 5 percent.
These categories are a bit different from the state's. Instead of "Learning Community Growth," the state's category is called "Parent/Peer Feedback." Where New Canaan has "Whole School Student Learning," the state has "Whole School /Student Feedback."
Kolek said the district had received a waiver from the state to change the rubric somewhat, adding that the state has been using some of New Canaan's plan to inform parts of its own program, though she did not elaborate on which parts.
The teachers will receive one of four overall grades: below standard, developing, proficient or exemplary.
"A gross score doesn't tell you anything. We've spent a lot of time working on these plans. We need evidence of each teacher's student growth," Kolek said.
The Board of Education was enthusiastic in its support of the TEPL program. Some members questioned whether administrators would be able to keep up with the workload, but Woleck and Kolek said that would not be an issue.
"I think it's really exciting work," Board of Education member Penny Rashin said. "I am fully supportive of it."
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