Pendleton School District tests out new teacher evaluation program

<p>Sunridge Middle School Class</p>

Sunridge Middle School Class

It's easy to measure how kids are doing in school, but what about the teachers?

School administrators in Pendleton are testing out a new teacher evaluation program from the Oregon Department of Education that evaluates teachers based on student progress.

The Pendleton School District is one of 14 districts across Oregon that are testing out this pilot evaluation program.

The program is the result of legislative action from 2011, requiring teacher evaluations across the state.

Educators in Pendleton say the program helps them to be extra aware of their students' progress, so they can make sure they're giving them the best education possible.

Gita Webster has been teaching at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton for 16 years, and admits the district's new teacher evaluation program can be a little nerve-wracking.

"Well, it's kind of a little scary" said Webster.

The new evaluation program that Pendleton is testing out for the state evaluates teachers based on student improvement.

"The focus is better teachers, better prepared students. And when we're being really focused on things that matter, and instructional practices, and whether these really work and how we know if they work, we're gonna have better prepared students" said Tricia Mooney, Pendleton School District Assistant Superintendent.

Here's how it works:

At the beginning of the school year, teachers will set academic goals for their students based on where they're at.

Then, at the end of the school year, they will review the goals, to see if the students met them or not.

"So if 80% of your students make those goals, then you are in the proficient category. If you can get even more, up in the 90% range and hit those targets, then you would be in the exemplary category" said Athena Nelson, 3rd grade teacher.

Teacher evaluations in Pendleton aren't anything new.

The district has been doing them for years through principal observations, and by monitoring how well a teacher communicates with parents, among other things.

Now, the student improvement category is being added to the mix.

In Pendleton, it makes up for about 20% of a teacher's total evaluation.

"It's not just who meets the benchmark, it's about how much growth the students show as well" said Mooney.

Administrators say the new evaluation program isn't meant to frighten or get rid of teachers, instead it's meant to improve student achievement.

Webster says she agrees.

She says the bottom line is she wants to make sure her students walk out of class with more knowledge than they had when they walked in.

"You want your kids to do well. That's the point of teaching, is that you want them to succeed in the end" said Webster.

Administrators say if students aren't improving, they'll speak with the teacher to find out what's not working, so improvements can be made.

This school year, 54 teachers in Pendleton are participating in the pilot program.

Next year, teachers across the state will be evaluated this way.

Administrators say the pilot program is not set in stone, and they will continue to evolve it as they use it.