2018-02-01 / Front Page

County teachers make the grade

High marks given in evals
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

The people on the front line of education in Leelanau County continue to get grades above their peers statewide, based on evaluation results for the 2016-17 school year.

According to recently released information from the Michigan Department of Education, all but one of the 148 teachers evaluated in the county’s four K-12 district were found by their administrators to be effective or highly effective.

Just one teacher county-wide was identified as “minimally effective.” None were judged to be ineffective.

And about 80 percent of the teachers evaluated were determined to be “highly effective” — the best grade available. That percentage is well ahead of the statewide level of 39 percent.

Twenty-nine teachers — or 19.6 percent — were deemed to be “effective,” compared to 23 percent last year.

Not long ago a tenured teacher had to step far out of line before losing his or her job. However, longevity and tenure no longer dictate which educators will be retained and who will be let go in a layoff situation.

State laws enacted in the past decade dictate that teacher evaluations play a major role in such decisions. And it keeps local administrators busy.

“We place a major emphasis in getting into classrooms,” Glen Lake Superintendent Sander Scott said.

At Glen Lake he is joined in the evaluation effort by Kim Wright, elementary principal; secondary principal Brian Hartigan; Marcus Mead, director of instructional technology; and athletic director Jen Johnston.

Each Monday, the administrative team devotes two hours to classrooms observations focused on specific teaching elements identified in the “Marzano” method for effective learning. The method identifies direct cause-and-effect relationships between teaching practices and student achievement.

All schools in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District use the Marzano method to grade teachers and administrators as well.

When the Glen Lake group reconvenes, members discuss what they saw and how well teachers applied the elements needed for student success.

The district employs three other teacher observations: a “walk thru,” usually 5 to 7 minutes in length; an informal, unannounced classroom visit of 20 to 30 minutes in length; and a “formal” observation that involves an advance meeting of the teacher and administrator and another post-observation.

Student achievement on standardized steps is also part of the evaluation.

Hartigan, Glen Lake’s principal for grades 7-12, has already finished 100 evaluations this year.

During the 2016-17 school year, 49 of Glen Lake’s 54 teachers were identified as highly effective, and five were considered effective.

No Glen Lake teachers were determined to be minimally effective or ineffective.

Each of the Leland teachers evaluated during the last school year were found to be highly effective.

“We’re proud of them for the jobs they do well in the classroom and the way they take to school initiatives,” Leland principal Charlie Gann said.

According to information on the state Department of Education website, all of Leland’s 36 teachers were evaluated in 2016-17. But that wasn’t so.

“If a teacher has been found highly effective during their last three evaluations, they can be evaluated on a biannual basis,” Gann said.

Since all of Leland’s teachers routinely are judged as highly effective, only 18 were evaluated last year.

“We offer constructive criticism. There are no ‘gotchas’,” Gann said. “It’s, ‘Here’s the awesome things you did. Here’s some things you could work on.’”

At the tip of the peninsula, five Northport Public School teachers — about one-quarter of the staff — were graded highly effective last year.

There was room for improvement for the bulk of the teaching staff as 14 teachers, or 70 percent, were identified as effective.

Northport Superintendent Neil Wetherbee performs a minimum of two observations on each teacher every year. Reports resulting from his observations along with student achievement averaged over a three-year period are considered part of the process.

Subject matter that doesn’t necessarily fit the “student progress” — such as art, music or physical education — requires a different approach.

Northport uses the state-approved Student Learning Objectives method.

Course-long academic goals are set by a teacher or teaching teams, based on their knowledge of students and their grasp of the content.

One Northport teacher was identified as minimally effective. Individualized development plans are put in place for these teachers to help them improve performance the following school year.

Suttons Bay’s teacher evaluations were performed by former superintendent Chris Nelson, who resigned just after the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.

Some 74 percent of the 38-member teaching staff was found to be highly effective. The remaining 10 teachers were deemed effective.

No Suttons Bay teachers were in the lowest two evaluation categories.

Suttons Bay interim superintendent Michael Carmean, who was not involved in the evaluations, did not return a call offering an opportunity to comment.

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