Feb 012012

By Teri Walker —

Joseph City School Superintendent Robert Klein will focus on three major areas in 2012: retooling the teacher evaluation process, implementing energy savings projects across the district and further integrating the state-led Common Core Standards Initiative.

“We’re revamping the teacher evaluation process to meet the new mandate from the legislature tying student achievement to teacher performance,” said Klein.

By the end of the school year, Klein expects to have a new evaluation system in place.

“Currently, teacher evaluation doesn’t take student achievement into account. They’re evaluated on professional, technical and ethical criteria,” said Klein.

With changes handed down by the Arizona Legislature in 2011, now “student achievement has to be at the core,” Klein said.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has provided some technical guidance for the framework for a student performance-based evaluation system, but it’s up to individual districts to develop systems customized to their specific needs and operations.

The new evaluation framework requires quantitative measures of student progress to be applied to teacher performance, assessing both standardized testing results (including Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) and Stanford) and classroom data.

The district plans to use multiple measures such as student and parent surveys of teacher effectiveness, classroom observation and peer evaluation in its new system.

Klein says the weighting formula for the new teacher evaluation standards is 50 percent classroom achievement and 50 percent teaching performance.

This school year, Joseph City Schools is addressing teacher evaluation, but Klein says similar metrics will be established for principals, too. The district plans to eventually review evaluation criteria for support staff such as secretaries, janitors and bus drivers, as those criteria haven’t been updated for some time.

A second major project in 2012 will be improving energy efficiency across the district and finding significant savings in utility costs.

The district began reviewing its energy use in earnest in 2011, and has accepted a cost-saving resolution by Midstate Energy of Phoenix, which is expected to save the district about $70,000 each year in utility costs.

The resolution includes such recommendations as replacing HVAC units, installing occupancy sensors for HVAC and light control, installing vending machine power management, upgrading interior and outdoor lighting fixtures, and more.

The district is developing a schedule for implementing Midstate’s recommendations, and Klein expects the improvements to be made across the district within the year.

Finally, Klein says the school district will continue to work toward full implementation of the ADE’s Common Core Standard Initiative.

The program is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia committed to developing a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

The point of the state-led effort to create common academic standards is to improve teaching and learning to ensure that high school graduates in every part of the nation have the knowledge and skills they need for college or a career.

The set of standards defines the knowledge and skills students should have to succeed in entry-level, academic college courses and in workforce training programs. There are opportunities for students to complete their educational requirements and graduate early through the program.

Crafters of the standardized curriculum approach say if students meet the new rigorous standards, they will be more competitive in today’s global economy.

Klein said the district is still evaluating the curriculum requirements and will extend full implementation to 2013.

“We’re continuing to research the process and looking at software,” said Klein.

“For a district this size, with no curriculum director, it takes a lot of time and energy to integrate a program such as this,” he continued.

Klein and the principals of the elementary and junior high-high schools are leading the process, and several teachers have been attending training on the Common Core program.