The educator evaluation system in Georgia is in dire need of change. GAE has advocated for a fair and uniform system for the state, and this has become even more important since the passage of Georgia’s Education Reform Act in 2000. Under this law, teachers who receive one unsatisfactory evaluation will not advance on the state salary schedule. With two unsatisfactory evaluations during a five-year period, the teacher cannot be recertified. What makes this even more problematic is that Georgia does not have a definition of “unsatisfactory” for teacher evaluations.
In addition to a lack of a definition for unsatisfactory, there is also no system for teachers to appeal an unsatisfactory evaluation. GAE has always advocated including the evaluation as part of the grievance procedure and allowing a neutral third party to hear the appeal. Many legislators do not understand that appeals or legal actions are methods of recourse not available for educators. In order to strengthen the evaluation process in Georgia, there needs to be a uniform system that includes peer review as well as a strong mentoring program to assist new teachers who need additional support and professional guidance.
Research from several states shows that the important factor often forgotten in evaluation systems is that the basic purpose should be to help teachers improve in their profession. Since there is no uniform evaluation system in Georgia, there is also no system for providing assistance to teachers who need it. Maryland’s Montgomery County School Board has instituted a program for “consulting teachers” to assist those teachers who have been discovered through an effective evaluation system needing improvement. What they have come to realize is when teachers take an active part in evaluations, through peer review and in the steps toward improvement by coaching one another, there is greater success. The necessity for teachers to be involved in the process is also an enormous piece missing from the defunct Georgia evaluation system.
GAE is proposing a new evaluation system that will include peer review; mentoring; a fair, unbiased evaluation model; and an appeals process. The key parts of a successful system should include:
- Teacher input into the evaluation criteria - professionals themselves control criteria for entering and maintaining membership for other professions such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers and it should be the same for teachers;
- Evaluators should be properly trained and available to devote enough time to the evaluation and provide useful feedback to the teacher;
- Results of the evaluation should be used to further the teacher’s development and closely linked to professional development opportunities; and
- Teachers should be involved in a system of evaluations that includes peer review. This system will provide more specific, achievable goals; constructive criticism; and ways to improve weak areas and amplify the strengths of those being evaluated. Peer review also helps promote mentoring of new teachers by more experienced educators. With a peer review procedure, the principal can spend more time with teachers who need the most assistance.
In the end, the most important effect of a new evaluation system that includes peer review and mentoring will be the ability of our school systems to attract and retain highly qualified teachers in every classroom.