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Major evaluation system reforms advance

PSEA is continuing to back legislation sponsored by two key lawmakers to overhaul the state’s educator evaluation system. The proposals include ideas from PSEA members.

Senate Bill 751, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, has passed the Senate. That legislation along with a similar proposal, House Bill 1607, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, was scheduled for hearings before the state House Education Committee in late October.

“PSEA members have had major concerns with the current system, and we shared ideas with Sen. Aument and Rep. Topper on how to fix them,’’ said PSEA President Rich Askey. “Both have listened, and our members’ ideas are reflected in their legislation.’’

The bills attempt to use student performance results more wisely, both by reducing their weight in evaluation and by adjusting building-level results for student poverty indicators, since poverty clearly has an impact on student learning.

The heavy reliance on student performance measures, the majority of which are based on standardized tests, has been particularly criticized by PSEA members.

Aument, who serves as Senate Republican Caucus secretary, was the architect of the current evaluation system. He had a change of heart about the use of student performance in educator evaluations, and initiated a lengthy process, including input from PSEA members and other education stakeholder groups, that led to the reform bills that he and Topper sponsored. 

Key features of the bill include:

Increase the classroom observation component from 50 percent to 70 percent of an evaluation for classroom teachers and from 80 percent to 90 percent for non-teaching professionals.

Reduce the student performance component from 50 percent to 30 percent of an evaluation for classroom teachers and from 20 percent to 10 percent for non-teaching professionals.

Adjust the building level measure (i.e., SPP) using a poverty indicator.

Shorten the “needs improvement window” so that educators can receive an “unsatisfactory” rating if they receive two “needs improvement” ratings in four years, rather than in 10 years under current law.

Ensure there are no caps on the number of educators who can receive a “distinguished” rating.

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