There’s trouble brewing in the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system over how teachers should be evaluated, and it erupted again Monday night at the board’s monthly “working” session.
Basically, the dispute boils down to concern by the teachers that a new appraisal system that makes them accountable for “student growth” is flawed and could unfairly punish them and possibly be detrimental to a teacher's career.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who is ultimately the decider when it comes to the means for carrying out the board’s wishes, contended that under the present system, teachers are rewarded even when their students don’t show progress.
Chute Principal McHolland, flanked by other school principals, speaks in favor of the plan.
For the third meeting in a row, teachers packed the audience and paraded a group of speakers to the lectern Monday during the “public comment” portion of the meeting to deride the plan, which they feel is particularly harmful to them in classes with special education students who, for no fault of their own or their teachers, are unable to do well on standardized tests that measure class performance.
But Murphy, in an emotional presentation he made from the “public comment” lectern, rather than from his seat at the board table, noted that in 30 classrooms across the district last year, less than half the students met projected growth standards; yet their teachers received “excellent” or “satisfactory” ratings.
“These students walk into our classrooms,” he said, “and they spend a year in there, and it’s a coin flip who is going to continue down the trail to college and career readiness. That’s just unacceptable.”
The District Educators Council (DEC), the union for District 65 teachers, is asking the board to operate the new system as a pilot project for this year and to move up implementation of the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), which districts are required to have in operation by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
While PERA also involves student growth data as part of teacher evaluation, it requires that districts develop their plans in partnership with the teachers.
Murphy proposed to the board that it continue to implement the new appraisal system with oversight by a research firm to validate the results and to address any concerns.
A group of principals from the district’s schools were in attendance at Monday’s meeting and jointly addressed the board through its spokesman, Chute Middle School Principal James McHolland. The principals said they support the new appraisal system as one that would be helpful to them in evaluating teacher performance.
Actually, the reason for putting the appraisal system on Monday’s agenda, according to Board President Katie Bailey, was to decide whether the Board should vote on the new system or leave it up to Murphy, as some board members felt that it was the board’s job to set policy and goals while it was Murphy’s responsibility to determine the means for carrying out those goals.
While no formal vote was taken Monday, Bailey noted that members Eileen Budde, Richard Rykhus, Tracy Quattrocki and herself thought the issue was too important not to put it up for a vote.
“We’ll be voting on it in two weeks,” she declared as she brought the discussion to a close.