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ASK THE STAFF

January/February 2013

Board has its role in teacher evaluations
by Melinda Selbee

Melinda Selbee, IASB General Counsel, answers the question for this issue.

Question : Everyone is talking about the new teacher evaluation process. What is the school board’s role in this process and in education reform?

Answer : The school board’s role in the new evaluation system and education reform is one of governance of the school district, with an elevated and focused obligation for ensuring student growth. This means that the board must identify the district’s ends in accordance with the reform measures and monitor its progress.

Both functions — identifying district ends and monitoring district performance — are already reflected in IASB’s Foundational Principles of Effective Governance.

The Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) became Illinois law on January 1, 2010, and was followed by education reform legislation that took effect June 13, 2011. PERA and the reform measures primarily concern the terms and conditions of teacher and principal employment.

Beginning with this school year (2012-13), all principals and assistant principals must be evaluated by trained observers, often the superintendent, and the evaluations must include data and indicators of student growth as a significant factor.

Principals, assistant principals and teachers must be evaluated using four rating categories: excellent; proficient; needs improvement; or unsatisfactory. Teacher evaluations also must be conducted by trained observers, usually the principal.

Beginning on a district’s PERA implementation date, teacher evaluations must include data and indicators of student growth as a significant factor. The schedule for using PERA evaluations is staggered over the next three and a half years. For most districts, the deadline is the 2016-2017 school year.

It has been the board’s responsibility to evaluate the superintendent and that process did not change. As before, the board must employ a superintendent under either a one- year contract or a performance-based contract for a period not exceeding five years. The performance-based contract must include the goals and indicators of student performance and academic improvement. Meaningful goals and indicators are important tools for measuring the superintendent’s performance.

The board also must review evaluation information in order to be informed as to whether principals and staff members are being effectively evaluated, and it must dismiss staff based on inadequate performance.

Mandated board member training is another major component of education reform. A board member elected after June 13, 2011 must complete the training within the first year of his or her first term. In addition, a board member must complete PERA training in order to vote on whether to retain or dismiss a teacher when the district uses the expedited process called Optional Alternative Evaluation Dismissal.

Currently, IASB is being told that it will need to submit an application to be an approved provider for this training and, per ISBE, IASB may not submit the application until March and May 2014, along with anyone else who wishes to be approved to provide this training.

Once IASB’s application is approved, the Association will begin to deliver the training. Few, if any, districts will need this training prior to 2014.

Other important aspects of PERA and education reform are explained in the free online overview “PERA Overview for School Board Members” on the IASB website at http://iasb.com/law/PERAoverview.pdf.

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