Interim Joint Committee on Education

 

Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 1st Meeting

of the 2007 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> August 13, 2007

 

The<MeetNo2> first meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on<Day> Monday,<MeetMDY2> August 13, 2007, at<MeetTime> 10:15 A.M., in<Room> Room 129 of the Capitol Annex.  Senator Vernie McGaha, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Senators Brett Guthrie and Tim Shaughnessy; and Representatives Larry Belcher, Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, Milward Dedman Jr, Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, David Watkins, and Ron Weston.

 

Guests:  Wayne Young, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA); and Clyde Caudill, Legislative Agent, KASA and Jefferson County Public Schools.

 

Legislative Guest:  Representative Derrick Graham.

 

LRC Staff:  Janet Stevens, Sandy Deaton, Jacinta Manning, and Janet Oliver.

 

Chairman McGaha identified the newly appointed members of the committee: Senator Shaughnessy and Representatives Belcher, Dedman, Greer, Higdon, Sims and Watkins.

 

Chairman McGaha related that Kentucky law establishes the framework for the evaluation and support for improving the performance of all certified school personnel and that local districts must follow the law and regulations when implementing and revising their personnel evaluation plans.  He recognized the following Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) employees present at the meeting:  Mr. Orin Simmerman, Director, Division of Leadership and Instructional Support; and Ms. Barbara Kennedy, Director, Division of Scholastic Assistance.  Chairman McGaha said they would be explaining the certified personnel evaluation process and how staff evaluation supports teaching and learning.

 

Members were provided a hard copy of the PowerPoint presentation used to explain the evaluation process as well as a copy of the applicable statute and regulation.

 

Mr. Simmerman introduced Ms. Robin Hill, a consultant with KDE's Professional Growth Branch, Division of Leadership and Instructional Support, who assisted with the presentation.

 

Mr. Simmerman said that a committee consisting of an equal number of administrators and certified teachers annually review their respective district's certified personnel evaluation (CPE) process and make revisions as needed and they may also create new evaluation instruments for use in the district.  He said this committee is also responsible for ensuring that the district's plans comply with the statute and regulations and local board policies.  He related that they meet on a regular basis to make sure that the plan is supporting the district goals for school improvement and employment and that it supports teaching and learning.

 

Mr. Simmerman said that any revision to the plan recommended by the committee must be approved by the local board of education and it is the board's responsibility to ensure statutory and regulatory compliance and that the plan meets the performance goals of the district and supports student achievement.  He related that KDE must also approve any changes to the plan prior to implementation to ensure compliance with the statute and regulation and if KDE believes the plan contains non-compliant issues, they discuss those issues verbally and in writing with the CPE liaison for the district.  The CPE plan can only be implemented after it is approved by KDE.  The district must also inform and train evaluators on any revisions to the plan.  Mr. Simmerman said that before the end of the first month that a certified employee reports to duty, he/she must be informed of the criteria and process used for evaluation.  He said the timelines must be followed and if the timeline is not met, the plan or revisions to an existing plan may not take effect until the following year. 

 

With regard to training, Mr. Simmerman related that the primary and second evaluators must be trained.  He stated that KDE has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) to conduct initial training for all evaluators in Kentucky.  Each evaluator must receive twelve (12) hours of training and must pass an examination to become certified.  The CPE evaluator training covers the standards for beginning and experienced teachers; the standards for administrators; observing, conferencing, coaching, and mentoring skills; working with marginal teachers and difficult situations; and developing and monitoring of professional growth plans.  He stated that evaluators must also receive twelve (12) hours of update training every two (2) years and this training may be provided by various sources since the regulation does not specify who is to provide the update training as long as certain criteria is met.

 

Next Mr. Simmerman discussed the process used to evaluate superintendents.  He related that the process is developed and adopted by the local boards of education although board members are not required to be trained as evaluators.  He continued that the Kentucky School Boards Association does offer training for superintendents and local board members to assist them in developing evaluation plans.  He said that all other administrators are included in the CPE training program.

 

Mr. Simmerman stated that only tenured teachers are required to have a summative evaluation every three years and that an unsatisfactory evaluation will trigger multiple observations.  He stated that non-tenured teachers are evaluated annually with multiple observations.  In addition, he explained that each certified personnel is to have a professional growth plan (PGP), which is reviewed annually to ensure alignment with specific goals and objectives of the school and district and the professional needs of the teacher and/or administrator.  He said the PGP should reflect a continuous improvement process and be developed collaboratively with the evaluator and have specific strategies that can be measured and evaluated with specific timelines and benchmarks.  He explained that if a poor evaluation is issued based on a deficiency which can be corrected over a period of time, then the PGP can be revised and developed around the particular area of needed growth.  However, if it is something that needs immediate correction, then the evaluator may require a corrective action plan so that immediate action may be taken to correct the problem, which may include surrounding the person with the type of assistance and resources needed to help them be successful; ensuring there is a mentoring team to work with the person; developing a portfolio of their work to allow progress to be benchmarked; development of written lesson and unit plans that can be evaluated, and other measures. 

 

Mr. Simmerman next discussed KDE's role stating the department is required by statute to conduct a minimum of fifteen (15) visits per year into districts to evaluate district CPE plans for effectiveness on student achievement.  He related that, because of limited financial resources, KDE uses the scholastic review and audit process as determining factors in deciding which districts to visit.  He stated that under the scholastic audit and review process, three particular areas are reviewed which include professional growth and development, evaluation and leadership.  Mr. Simmerman said that successful, high performing districts routinely score better in those areas then districts that are scoring poorly and in assistance, but they may not always do a great job with evaluations.  However, high performing schools generally hire good people, provide excellent professional development, and engage in best practice with regard to curriculum, instruction and assessment.  He said they could possibly take their schools to a higher level if they would implement high quality CPE plans. 

 

Mr. Simmerman said that KDE does not have specific funding earmarked for the CPE program and the cost for initial and continuous training for evaluators is the responsibility of the local district.  He related that the initial evaluation training costs approximately $200 for two days through KASA and update training ranges from $200 upward, depending on the provider.

 

With regard to the scholastic audit and review process, Ms. Kennedy said that KDE carefully examines low performing schools to ensure that the school and district are following the statutory and regulatory CPE policies and procedures as well as those mandated by their local board.  She said the department issues findings and provides recommendations for improvement to the superintendent and the local boards.

 

Representative Collins stated he has received many calls about the personal appearance of teachers, especially related to inappropriate clothing.  Mr. Simmerman said that local boards establish the policies and procedures for professional conduct of certified teachers and administrators.  He continued that some school councils also may establish policies that exceed the local board's position.  Representative Collins asked if the department makes recommendations and Ms. Kennedy responded that while conducting one particular scholastic audit they did observe inappropriate dress which was reported to the superintendent and central office staff resulting in a dress code being implemented in the district.  Representative Collins expressed his opinion that it is an important issue relating to respect, discipline and authority in the school environment.

 

Representative Belcher said that it appears, based on the information provided, it would take KDE another two or three years to review the CPE plans for each district.  He asked if each district would be reviewed and Ms. Kennedy responded that the trigger for evaluation of the districts is the student achievement data and if the district is not in trouble or in any type of tier consequences then KDE will not do a visit because they do not have the financial resources.  She stated that the districts' plans are evaluated in Frankfort and if a trigger requires a visit to the district, KDE reviews how the plan is implemented and monitored.  She stated that they also conduct visits to five percent (5%) of the high performing schools so they will have comparative data.

 

Chairman McGaha referred to Slide 6 and asked if the letter sent to certified personnel at the beginning of each year is just for new or all employees.  Mr. Simmerman responded that it is sent to all certified personnel on an annual basis.  He said that school administrators may normally report for duty on a different date than teachers and districts must take those dates into consideration when implementing their plans.  Chairman McGaha asked why that process would be used if a teacher received a satisfactory evaluation and is not scheduled for another evaluation for three years.  Ms. Kennedy explained that every one is notified at the beginning of the school year of the process but the teachers and administrators to be evaluated are provided more in-depth information about the process.

 

Chairman McGaha referred to Slide 16 regarding assistance for poor evaluations.  He said that he did not agree with the statement made that we owe it to the teacher to improve their skills, but rather we owe it to the students to improve the skills of the teacher.   

 

Chairman McGaha recognized Representative Graham, who was in attendance at the meeting and had requested the opportunity to ask a few questions.  He also stated that he would like to have a representative with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators to answer a few questions. 

 

Representative Graham thanked Chairman McGaha for allowing him to participate at the meeting.  Referring to Slide 8, Representative Graham asked what steps are taken if an administrator or principal does not pass the test to become certified as an evaluator.  He asked if they could still serve as an observer and evaluate a teacher.  Mr. Simmerman responded that an administrator may not evaluate certified personnel unless they are certified to perform the evaluations.  Representative Graham next asked what the criteria would be to serve as a trainer for the evaluators.  Mr. Simmerman responded that KDE relies on KASA to ensure that the trainers have the necessary expertise.  Representative Graham then asked if all 174 districts use the same evaluation process in the professional growth plan and if there is an across the board state evaluation form that the districts must follow or if each district has its own form.  Mr. Simmerman said the plans and instruments used for evaluation vary across districts although there are a lot of commonalities between them.

 

Representative Collins asked how many visits the evaluator has with a teacher and if the visits are planned.  Mr. Simmerman replied that the number of visits is a local policy, but normally a non-tenured teacher would receive 2-3 visits with perhaps one being unannounced.  He continued that if it is a tenured teacher the visits are usually announced.  Representative Collins expressed his opinion that a planned visit may not provide a true picture of what is occurring in the classroom.  Mr. Simmerman said that principals and administrators will commonly use a walk-through to get a good snapshot of what is occurring in the classroom.  He also stated that a review of other data, such as lesson plans, helps with the evaluation.  Chairman McGaha asked if the statute requires an announced visit to which Mr. Simmerman replied that the statute requires the visit to be open with the full knowledge of the employee.  

 

Chairman McGaha next asked Mr. Simmerman to discuss the eWalk program.  Mr. Simmerman said the program is a web-based walk-through program in which handheld computers are used to collect comprehensive data to improve teaching and learning.  He explained that with grant money, KDE contracted with Media-X Systems to develop the program and that KDE provided training in many districts and schools on how to use the program.  He said that the templates are easy to design and allow for quick and easy data collection and KDE employees have even created templates to use with Reading First and the scholastic audit and review process.  Mr. Simmerman said there are a number of counties who use it on a regular basis, but some school personnel who have been trained do not use it on a regular basis. 

 

Chairman McGaha asked Wayne Young, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) to answer a few questions as a follow-up on the evaluation process.  Mr. Young introduced Ms. Shirley LaFavers, Director of Professional Development for KASA, relating that she is a former teacher and previously worked at KDE and now she directly oversees KASA's certified personnel evaluation training.   

 

Representative Collins asked what KASA's experience has been with appearance of staff.  Mr. Young stated that, as legal counsel for KASA, he receives many inquiries regarding dress codes, particularly for students.  He said schools can adopt dress codes through their school councils and generally require faculty as well as students to adhere to a certain level of appearance.  Representative Collins expressed his opinion that perhaps uniforms would eliminate inappropriate appearance at school.

 

Chairman McGaha said the information relating to assistance for poor evaluations did not include the consequences for a teacher who continuously receives poor evaluations and corrective action does not seem to work.  He asked what action can be taken against a tenured teacher for poor evaluations.  Mr. Young related that he advises administrators that they have four years when a new teacher is hired to determine if the person can do the job and it would be a failure on the part of the administrator to not properly document performance and take corrective action.  He stated there are numerous criteria in the evaluation process which can be utilized to conduct proper evaluations and that KASA trains new superintendents and principals on how to perform the evaluations in such a way as to help teachers improve their skills and abilities.   

 

Chairman McGaha reiterated his question about consequences and Mr. Young replied that to dismiss a teacher requires documentation and observation and a refusal or failure by the teacher to follow a corrective action plan and it still may result in litigation.  Chairman McGaha asked how many cases have been initiated over the last few years to dismiss a bad teacher.  Mr. Young stated there is always a reluctance to terminate a teacher because it is time-consuming and expensive.

 

Representative Collins asked what effect several good evaluations would have on one bad evaluation.  Mr. Young explained the school tribunal process which is used when a tenured teacher is not performing to standards and may be subject to dismissal.  He related that the tribunal is made up of three individuals from outside the school district who review the decision to terminate.  He said good evaluations would become an evidentiary issue when a bad one is issued.  Representative Collins stated that although one of the purposes of KERA was to remove politics from the school system, it seems to have only made it less transparent. 

 

Chairman McGaha recognized Representative Graham who asked what type of mechanism is in place to ensure that subjectivity is not part of the evaluation process and that the evaluation is based on observation, conduct, and actual performance of the person being evaluated.  Ms. LaFavers responded that, pursuant to the regulations, a teacher can ask for a third party evaluator of their summative evaluation if they exercise this option in writing by February 15 of their summative evaluation year, whether it is an annual or three-year evaluation.  She explained that the third party evaluator may be agreed upon by the principal and the teacher, but if they cannot agree, then the principal can select the evaluator.  In addition, Ms. LaFavers said that a teacher unhappy with the summative evaluation may also request review by a local tribunal, consisting of two teachers elected by the certified staff and one designated by the superintendent.  She said that teachers and administrators are informed of their options during training but the principal must also make a teacher aware of specific incidents in writing if the incident is to become a part of the evaluation.  Ms. LaFavers related that KASA also trains superintendents and central office staff and the only thing they can do is inform them of best practices.

 

Representative Graham stated he is aware of incidences where good teachers and administrators have received bad evaluations based on personality conflicts rather than poor performance.  Mr. Young said that KASA stresses the importance of fair and impartial evaluations which also contributes to the overall culture and environment of the institution.  Representative Graham asked if ethics is included in professional development training and Ms. LaFavers responded that it is included in the initial training for evaluators but is not mandatory in the update training.  Representative Graham stated that perhaps the legislature should address this issue such as requiring three to six hours for ethics training.  Mr. Young stated he favors ethics training and advised that the Education Professional Standards Board has adopted a code of ethics.  Ms. LaFavers said that the national trend now is to review student performance and backtrack to evaluations and other instruments which help teachers manage classroom situations and instruction.

 

Chairman McGaha asked about the success rate of terminating poor teachers.  Mr. Young stated that Commissioner Noland maintains the statistics on tribunals, but generally districts can be successful in taking action against an inadequate certified employee if they have properly documented the performance.  Chairman McGaha asked Mr. Young, in his opinion, what is the rate and Mr. Young responded that in his opinion the success rate would be 75-80 percent or more.  Chairman McGaha asked what the average cost would be to a district per case and Mr. Young responded $25,000 or more.

 

Chairman McGaha thanked Mr. Young and Ms. LaFavers for their willingness to share information with the committee.

 

Chairman McGaha related that the next meeting date will be September 10, 2007, in Frankfort and Representative Edmonds will chair the meeting.

 

There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 11:25 A.M.