Lewiston's new evaluation a 'wake-up call' to a few bad teachers

LEWISTON — In the past year, all of Lewiston's 400 teachers have undergone evaluations in a new teacher evaluation system.

New JV cheering team approved

LEWISTON — The Lewiston School Committee unanimously approved creating a new competitive high school junior varsity cheerleading team Monday night.

Athletic Director Jason Fuller asked for the new team, saying too many talented students don't have a chance of making the varsity team because there aren't enough slots.

He estimated the new JV team will have between 15 to 20 students, mostly girls.

In the community, competitive cheering is supported, Fuller said, adding youngsters start early with youth leagues. Lewiston High School's competitive cheering has done well in the state and New England competition, Fuller said.

Fuller said there'd be no costs to taxpayers — the Boosters Club has agreed to pay for the costs in the first three years, and there are extra uniforms JV cheerleaders could use.

The new team would likely start in the November, Fuller said.

In other business, the board approved two new appointments. Alisa Roman is the new nutrition director, replacing Kim Austin, who left the position. Roman's annual salary will be $60,478. Roman told the committee she looks forward to the job, saying she intends to incorporate more local foods, fruits and vegetables and reduce processed foods.

Longtime special ed educator Pamela Butler will become the Lewiston Middle School special education director. Her annual salary will be $73,000.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said the special ed supervisor position is not an extra position; it will replace a special ed coordinator. The position of supervisor was recommended by a recent report that pointed out the coordinator lacked authority to manage special ed teachers or special ed techs.

The new position will be better able to both manage and coach special ed teachers and special ed techs at the middle school, Webster said.

Teachers could earn one of four grades: distinguished, effective, developing or ineffective.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster told the Lewiston School Committee on Monday night the vast majority were deemed effective or distinguished. A few have “gotten a wake-up call.” They have a year to improve or face losing their jobs.

Committee chairman Jim Handy asked "How well, if at all, will this system be used to identify teachers who aren't making the grade?”

Webster answered there are a handful of teachers who were ranked as ineffective. "They received a letter from me encouraging them to work very hard on this plan, also making it clear if they're unsuccessful, they may well face non-renewal next February,” Webster said. “No one wants a bad teacher, but we have to make sure we give teachers every opportunity to be successful.”

Lewiston's new evaluation system gives teachers more support, more coaching and more professional development. But compared to the old system, it's harder for bad teachers to go unnoticed.

Under the old system, there were teachers evaluated as very effective who are now only ranked as developing, Webster told the board.

The new system grades teachers for how well students are learning and how well they're engaged and doing in the classroom.

The old system gave too much weight to a teacher's appearance, how their walls were decorated or what degrees they had — what Webster called “the inputs of instruction rather than the outputs.”

Committee member Sonia Taylor asked, “You mean a teacher got brownie points for coming to school looking good?” 

Yes, Webster said. Under the old system, “a teacher that was marginal in the classroom, but good in other aspects ... it was nearly impossible to have that teacher rated anything other than effective," he said. “We're talking about a handful, but this evaluation has been a wake-up call for some teachers.”

Lewiston is a statewide leader in adopting a new evaluation that grades teachers for the job they're doing in class, Webster said. Statewide, the old ways of teacher evaluations remain.

Teachers graded as ineffective or developing are receiving extra help. Each school has a teacher who's a full-time instructional coach to help teachers improve. Those positions are funded by a federal grant, Webster said.

While all teachers were evaluated last year, from now on, only teachers in their first three years of probation will be evaluated annually, as will teachers who were graded as developing or ineffective.

Once a teacher with three years or more of experience is graded as efficient or distinguished, they'll be re-evaluated just once every three years, Webster said.

Ultimately, the new system will provide students better learning, Webster said. Teaching needs to help students understand what they're learning so they apply learning to other areas.

For instance, students answering only “yes” or “no” to questions “is a low level of the quality of engagement,” Webster said. What's needed is a higher level, “getting into the why's, applying what we learned in different areas."

The new evaluation system helps teachers become better by pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, and prompts them to be reflective about their practice.

“How we improve is to ask ourselves 'How could I have done it better?' 'What was Sally telling me by her facial reactions?'”

Lewiston teacher Amanda Winslow, who is one of the coaches, told committee members  that she can see how many students are benefiting from the lesson just by walking in a classroom. “You can see based on level of engagement if the teacher is adjusting” teaching to draw all students in, she said.

Webster said he gives the first year of the new evaluation system a grade of B. “It reflects a strong commitment on the part of the district and teachers to do the best they can," he said.

There still some work to do, he added. "It's not an A.”

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Comments

Bob White's picture

Its funny when the Governor

Its funny when the Governor graded the school he was the most evil person but I see he was on to something.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Grading schools

The governor used only the NCLB tests as a measure and even worse graded schools on a Bell Curve. That means he looked at the scores and gave a C grade to the majority scores. That is meaningless. A grade of C in Maine could equal an A in Florida or Mississippi or an F in Connecticut or Massachusetts. He then gave an A or B to anybody who scored better than the C's and a D or F to anybody who scored lower. This is just PR . It does not tell you anything about what anybody is learning. That is precisely my point about a grading instrument. It is one thing to say students should be engaged but are you also saying they are more engaged in one room than another? Or are you saying that teachers who got a low score on student engagement means that students were not engaged? That is not the same thing at all. Does the instrument provide for multiple evaluations or just two. The fewer the evals the less meaningful they are. That is why I think you are better off keeping tabs on what is happening to your child on a daily basis than to depend on these scores. They are basically useful to motivate teachers to improve and they all can improve. Since the school dept. has already had 3 years to weed out the less successful teachers it is likely the scores are merely a comparison of proficient teachers.

Bob White's picture

It still got people looking

It still got people looking and asking questions didn't it?

MEGAN PARKS's picture

"That is why I think you are

"That is why I think you are better off keeping tabs on what is happening to your child on a daily basis than to depend on these scores."

I keep close tabs on my children and their education, which is why I would like to know which teachers are not meeting the same standards the majority of their peers are meeting.

MEGAN PARKS's picture

Am I the only one....

... who thinks we, as parents, should know which teachers are "ineffective"? I do not want an ineffective teacher teaching my children.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

ineffective

Seems to me you should be more concerned with the meaning of the word "Ineffective". As pointed out in the article at one time the word meant "does not dress in a professional manner". I'm hoping teachers had some say in the instrument used to evaluate them. Once upon a time I got a bad score because the shades in my room were not even. There should be several criteria for an effective teacher. I'm hoping it is not based entirely on NCLB testing. You also cannot assume that a first year teacher will have the same proficiency as a teacher with years of experience and you can't fire all the new teachers or you won't ever get experienced teachers so while every parent wants the best teacher they can get you also have to realize that the best teacher isn't going to be teaching every child in the system. A really proficient teacher should have excellent knowledge of the subject they are teaching and be current on that knowledge. They should have adequate control of their classroom and the students should be working and engaged. As for test scores, I feel that scores that measure individual growth are more valuable than scores that compare one group with another. The latter tend to rely on specific information questions rather than to evaluate skills and tend to penalize students from lower income or non-English speaking background who start school several years behind their peers and take time to catch up. The best advice I would have for parents is be involved. Visit the school often and check your child's work. You can go online and see if their work is being turned in on time and the quality of the work they are doing. If things are not going the way they should get involved and find a way to turn things around sooner rather than later.

MEGAN PARKS's picture

You stated, "Seems to me you

You stated, "Seems to me you should be more concerned with the meaning of the word "Ineffective". As pointed out in the article at one time the word meant "does not dress in a professional manner"."

The article clearly states, "The new system grades teachers for how well students are learning and how well they're engaged and doing in the classroom."

The new system DOES NOT grade teachers based upon the clothing they are wearing, and it is the new system that has deemed these teachers "ineffective". Therefore, by definition in this article "ineffective" means that they are not adequately teaching/engaging students. Based upon that information I would like to know who these teachers are so I can be certain that they are not influencing my children.

MEGAN PARKS's picture

If the majority of the

If the majority of the teachers can take this same evaluation and fall into the higher two categories, than the rest should be able to do so as well.

My daughter is an honor roll student. She has had teachers, both fresh out of college and well seasoned, that ranged from excellent to not so great. Regardless she thrived, I am lucky for that. One teacher, who has been teaching for at least a decade and still is, would send home classroom "newsletters" she wrote/created herself filled with spelling errors and typos. Should this person really be educating children when she can't grasp elementary spelling and grammar skills herself?

I would like to know which teachers essentially failed this eval, and be given the choice to allow my child access to the best teachers only.

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