GA to roll out pilot program to evaluate teachers/principals

An effort to turn around low performing schools in Georgia will include new teacher and principal evaluations based on student test scores.

The pilot program will kick off in January in 26 Georgia school systems, including Dougherty County, which received Race to the Top funds.

Teacher evaluations aren't new, but this is the first time the state has mandated student test scores be part of the process.

Years ago several schools in Lee County, including teacher Dolly Gill's class, volunteered to be part of a new program to evaluate teachers called class keys. The state never mandated its implementation, but it likely laid the groundwork for the newest evaluation system called teacher keys which will begin with 26 systems in January. Curriculum Director Gail Melvin likes this new system that considers value added scores, which gauges teachers based on how much a students gains in a year.

"It's taking the child where he is, he comes to your room at this point, and we should expect him to improve somewhat by the end of the year," said Gail Melvin, Lee County Schools Curriculum Director.

It considers more than just test scores.

"How often was the child absent, was here there most of the time, did he transfer in mid-way from somewhere else, they were going to look at different things not just saying he was here, now he's here," said Melvin.

But it would also judge teachers on two classroom observations by administrators and student surveys.

"The students will do surveys on the teachers and the teachers will do surveys on the administrators and I think that's good, they're the customers so to speak I know the parents and the stake holders are too but they are the ones receiving the instruction and I think their input should be important," said Melvin.

Dougherty County schools will be among the 26 systems statewide in January to begin the pilot program. We asked to speak to the Curriculum Director Diane Daniels, but were told even though she's been meeting with state officials on and off for an entire year, she couldn't speak with us about the program yet. Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree wouldn't talk about the program today either. Lee County officials say teachers are hesitant about this new evaluation system.

"It's not to just an I got you type of thing, it's to go in and say here are your strengths and here are the things that need to be improved on and here's what we're going to offer you to help do that," said Melvin.

Some critics say it's difficult to track which teachers are responsible for a student's academic progress because many students get tutoring or extra help from a variety of teachers.

The pilot program will include about 5,000 teachers and several hundred principals.

Up to 60 districts will be added each year starting next fall.

The entire state will be phased in by the fall of 2014.