Shelby County School Board: Changes ahead for pilot teacher assessment program

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By Lisa King

A pilot assessment program for teachers that launched this school year in Shelby County will take a new direction next year.

Educators spoke favorably about the upcoming changes in next year’s program when they addressed the Shelby County School Board Thursday about the Certified Evaluation Plan.

“The certified evaluation plan is quite different for next year, we have a new professional growth and effectiveness system that we’re going to be implementing,” said Cindy French, director of elementary schools.

French said that the state program, piloted during the 2013-14 school year at Painted Stone, by Principal Michelle Shipley with eight teachers and by Jill Tingle, principal of Simpsonville Elementary with five teachers, will be implemented district wide next year and will have a more concise focus.

“We were discussing that one of the biggest changes is there are a lot lower number of indicators,” Tingle said. “Right now, there are eleven standards that teachers are assessed on, and with the way the new effectiveness system works for teachers, it allows them to focus on one area to really grow in instead of trying to do everything well.”

This year, teachers have focused on self-assessments that they believe will allow them to grow as educators, but next year, that focus will be both narrowed for teachers and expanded to include students, Tingle said.

“The biggest difference in the evaluation system will be, it’s not just what the teachers are doing, but how the kids are performing in the classroom,” she said.

“I think the change will be good; instead of teachers trying to improve on eleven different things, they get to focus on one area, and monitor that one area, through feedback from their peers, and from the administrators and they able to then look for specific professional learning opportunities that will grow them personally, that will in turn, help grow our kids.”

This technique will help students to understand assignments better before they embark upon it, so they will know what is expected of them, and will also understand how they got the grade they did, Tingle said, because they will have input into the assignation.

“They know the success criteria before the project starts, so it’s kid generated, instead of kids getting a grade back and saying, ‘well, how did I get this [grade]?’” Tingle said.


Student recognition

Several students were recognized at the meeting for their participation in the Odyssey of the Mind and Duke TIP ACT.

Student Chase Souder, who was one student recognized for the later distinction.

The Duke TIP 7th Grade Talent Search helps educators and families determine how advanced their students’ academic abilities truly are. Traditional testing often fails to measure the variation among many academically talented students who reach the upper limits of scoring on grade-level exams. Above-level testing at least two years above a student's current grade offers gifted students and their families a far better understanding of how the student compares to his or her gifted peers and what level of educational challenge is appropriate.

Teams of students from five schools received certificates recognizing their advancement to the World Finals of Odyssey of the Mind, a competition that takes places May 28-31 at Iowa State University, where they will match wits with 800 teams around the world. 

Collins High School will send two teams to the finals along with two teams from West Middle and one team from Simpsonville Elementary.

The teams will have eight minutes to set up their designed set and perform their skit. Judges tally points for teamwork, creativity, performance quality and, not just providing a solution or performing an explanation of a problem, but doing it with style.

The goal is to provide a critical thinking atmosphere for students where they can express themselves and help to build confidence, develop problem-solving techniques and even help shy students.

Parents, teachers, and board members applauded the presentation of certificates that took place before the meeting.


Construction updates

Alan Stilts with K. Norman Berry reported that Southside Elementary School construction is on schedule and that current activities include the placement of a concrete slab in the administration area and the steel framing has been installed above the cafeteria, with final roofing still needing to be done. Work on the upper level is continuing, and ceiling grids are nearing completion in the lower classroom wing.

Stilts said that they are gearing up for Phase II, which includes demolishing the old school, and “getting everything wrapped up for fall.”

At Northside Elementary, Phase I is complete, sod has been laid and the facility is on schedule to be completed in August.

School board members had asked if either of the two construction sites sustained storm damage from last week’s storm and Stilts said no.


Also at the meeting, the board:

§       Approved school fundraisers for 2014-15

§       Approved change orders for Collins High School’s athletic complex

§       Approved Summer Feeding for 2014

§       Approved Recognition of support organizations for 2014-15

§       Approved Local Agreement for Cooperation on Full Utilization of Head Start for 2014-15

§       Approved leave of absent request

§       Approved allowing ATC students to use common carrier transportation for a field trip June 29

§       Approved allowing ATC students to travel on June 22

§       Approved awarding contract for senior portraits for 2014-15

§       Approved renewing contracts for Uniform Services for 2014-15

§       Approved minutes for May 8 board meeting