“I feel we can do better as a district than what we have traditionally done in the form of evaluations,” Trustee John McGlothlin said. “I think if all stakeholders are involved and we have a committee that studies this at length … we could come back with a system that is more fair and equitable to teachers and evaluated the larger measure of what they do.”
McGlothlin said the district’s development of an evaluation tool would be individualized to SMCISD and would be more flexible than the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, or T-TESS, the current state-mandated teacher evaluation system.
Susan Seaton, a district teacher and region director with the Texas State Teachers Association, conceded teacher evaluations are an important tool to be used by districts but questioned how to measure an educator’s performance.
Developing a new system will require, time, money and additional training so teachers can know what is expected of them, Seaton said.
The district is one of 200 school districts in Texas that has adopted a pilot of T-TESS, which will be implemented statewide in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.
“Teachers are your most valuable resource in the classroom,” Seaton said. “Currently there is an evaluation system in place. We are in the first year pilot of this, so I ask you to give it time.
“We don’t get to choose our students. We are a public school. Some of the examples of what may affect a child would be poverty, hunger, family life, medical needs, lack of resources, academic needs and lack of security. All of those play into the child’s experience in the classroom and cannot be measured on a teacher’s evaluation.”
Anne Halsey, who ultimately voted against creation of the committee because she believed more discussion was necessary to determine the composition and specific goals of the group, said she is not interested in tying teacher salary increases to “a particular snapshot number on any one day,” in reference to students’ standardized test scores.
“I think my intention with beginning this conversation is to find better ways to support teachers and students and provide ways we can help teachers in their professional careers,” Halsey said.
Halsey said she hopes the district can create a tool that will tailor T-TESS to the unique needs of SMCISD. Potential additions to T-TESS she would like to see include peer-to-peer evaluations whereby teachers would provide evaluations and support for each other.
Board President Kathy Hansen also voted against forming the committee and said, as a former teacher and administrator who evaluated district staff members, she believes T-TESS needs more time before it can be fully understood.
“I can’t at this time support a committee to start changing things again,” she said. “I’d like to see what we have currently and even see next year—at least two years of data and implementation—before we start tweaking it or making major or minor changes. I have great concerns about that.”
Trustees will submit two names each to Board President Kathy Hansen to determine the composition of the committee.