Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Syracuse was one of the first school districts in the state to get its teacher and principal evaluation plans approved and in place.
Syracuse was even used as a model by the State Education Dept. for other districts to work from in developing their own plan. With the January 17 deadline for approval now passed, NewsChannel 9 is checking the mid-term report card on how Syracuse’s system is working.
For the first time ever in Syracuse classrooms, scores and assessments aren’t just about the students. Teachers and principals will be getting grades at the end of the school year. Syracuse is using a system that relies on mix of state test scores, local measures, observations and student surveys.
"Implementing all of this in a short period of time is a difficult proposition for any district and certainly districts of our size and districts with the kind of funding that we have, it’s definitely a challenge,” explained STA President Kevin Ahern.
Syracuse is well into the process and learning along the way what works and what needs improvement. The district has focused on how to provide proper feedback on to teachers, especially with multiple observations by both administers and peer observers.
Syracuse Schools Chief Academic Officer Laura Kelley told NewsChannel 9, "Looking at everyone being perfectly consistent over observation to observation, so that your observation of a math teacher and your rating is very similar, if not exactly the same as my observation of a math teacher to get to that point it takes several years."
One of the things they're finding out about is just how time consuming the in-classroom portion of the process is with over 1,700 teachers and 30-plus principals to evaluate. There's also work for teachers to do as part of this new system.
"The process is substantial. Teachers have to provide evidence for student work, their own lesson plans, objectives, all the stuff has to be uploaded into the system,” Ahern continued.
"It’s a big shift, not just for the district, but the whole state of New York,” Kelley said.
But it’s a start and though they admit it’s one that needs tweaking, the next piece is making sense of exactly how to read these scores come summer.
The district estimates implementing the evaluation system has cost them between 10 and $12 million – all out of their budget.