East Maine Elementary District 63 is moving forward with its plans to meet the requirements of two state laws that combine to require an overhaul of how teachers are evaluated, how they can achieve tenure and how they are let go when there are layoffs.
Superintendent Scott Clay reported on the reform efforts at the Dec. 7 school board meeting at Apollo School in Des Plaines. He said that one of the laws requires all Illinois school districts to use student growth as one component of teacher and principal evaluations.
That law was passed as part of a push for the state to apply for federal Race to the Top education funding. While Illinois did not end up receiving Race to the Top funding from the department of education, the law stands, he said.
So now school districts must figure out what measures to use to determine student growth, and how to incorporate that into teacher evaluations, Clay said.
The district does catch a break because it is in the last group of Illinois school districts who must use student growth to evaluate teachers, starting in 2016. The state is starting with the lowest-performing districts, which have to comply with that part of the law first, so there will be plenty of data before District 63 has to put its program into place.
“We won’t be making many decisions about that until we get some feedback from around the state,” Clay said.
Principals, on the other hand, must be evaluated with student growth data starting next year, Clay said. “A lot of us think that’s totally backwards,” he said, “to start with the principals and then go to the teachers.”
Also next year the district must put each teacher into one of four categories when he or she is evaluated: excellent, proficient, needs improvement or unsatisfactory. This year, District 63 is using three categories for evaluations: excellent, satisfactory and unsatisfactory.
Once the four categories are in place, they will be used to put teachers into four groups when it comes to deciding who gets laid off first. The first group are teachers who have not yet been evaluated. They can be let go at the will of the district. The second includes teachers who have received a rating of unsatisfactory or needs improvement in the last two years; the third includes teachers who have been deemed proficient and the fourth includes teachers who have been deemed excellent for the previous two years, or for two of the previous three years, Clay said.
Under the new rules, teachers who have more seniority but lower ratings would be laid off before teachers who have higher ratings and less seniority.
District 63 includes Apollo School and Stevenson School in Des Plaines; Gemini Junior High, Mark Twain School and Nelson School in Niles; Melzer School in Morton Grove; and Washington School in Glenview.