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Weigh In: What do you hope to achieve this year?

Better evaluate teachers, close gaps, and advance laptop initiatives.

Ratings Game
Tim Hopkins. "We'll be working on the new Ohio teacher evaluation system," says Hopkins, superintendent at Brookville Local Schools.

"We are moving into an arena where 50 percent of teachers' evaluations will be based on student test scores. Teachers had been evaluated only on professional performance. We'll pilot it this year for the first time with all of our staff.

"We've tried to work with teachers on developing their pre- and post-assessment tests and student learning objectives to set the groundwork for the evaluation process. We used as much professional time as possible to bring outside sources in to work with our teachers on what's going to happen, to write their own pre-assessment and student learning objectives.

"This is not a local initiative. It's a state initiative. Our teachers are not upset with local administration and leadership; they're good to go, but there's a lot of anxiety. When you start talking about people's evaluations and how the determination of whether they're doing a good job might be in the hands of 25 nine-year-olds, that creates a lot of apprehension and anxiety."

1:1 Laptops
Gary Klahn. "We have been very technologically advanced for a school our size," says Klahn, superintendent at Wheeler Central Schools in Bartlett, Nebraska. "We've got interactive whiteboards in every classroom, which allows us to prepare kids for the 21st century.

"We're looking to continue our 1:1 laptop initiative at the high school, with more advanced laptops for our students. Last year, we had a lot of complaints as the laptops started to become outdated.

"We're going to monitor the new laptops, then see if we need to make any changes. Teachers will also have access to cloud technology so they can get the newest and best software.

"Another area is professional development. In Nebraska, we have educational service units. This allows teachers to access training as they need it, including during the summer. We don't set any minimum requirements. Then, when we have our preservice days, two days before students come to school in the fall, we do additional training for staff who may not have had the opportunity to train in the summer. We offer the exact same training for any staff who wishes to attend, whether they're a secretary, paraprofessional, or teacher."

Closing Gaps
Barbara Deane-Williams. "We have just completed our five-year strategic plan, called Envision Greece 2017," says Barbara Deane-Williams, superintendent of Greece Central School District in North Greece, New York.

"Our goal is to ensure that every student graduates from high school and is college- and career-ready. We'll monitor students every three to five weeks toward grade-level benchmarks and take actions along the way to close any gaps.

"We're doing this while implementing the New York State Reform Agenda, which includes adoption of the Common Core standards for curriculum and assessments and building our instructional data systems.

"We've also completed mapping our strategic agenda and summer leadership academy. We secured a significant grant—$1.47 million-to develop leadership capacity, and we developed a partnership with the New York City Leadership Academy to prepare and support our school administrators as they [put together] a new teacher leadership model.

"It's being developed jointly with our teachers association, and we're using the Learning Forward professional development standards as well as the national teacher leadership standards.

"We're applying turnaround strategies to all our schools as part of our leadership agenda. These are designed to accelerate student achievement and to close achievement gaps. We are in the process of designing and implementing a variety of support systems within individual schools in our district."

Educator Effectiveness
Joni Weinert. "We have a new state model for educator effectiveness in Wisconsin," says Joni Weinert, superintendent at Bruce School District. "We're going to be part of a pilot for 2013-14 through the department of public instruction. 

"The implementation is in 2014-15. We sent a team of volunteers for training this past summer. We find that people who are open to new ideas are usually the ones we want to start with and then spread it out to other staff.

"Throughout this next school year, we will be implementing two models. One is through the Cooperative Educational Services Association. The other is the state model based on the research of Charlotte Danielson [an expert in teacher effectiveness].

"The five teachers who were trained will go through the pilot, doing everything that's involved in the new program, like preparing different kinds of evaluations and student learning objectives.

"One thing I hope to accomplish is to improve our teachers' abilities and methods and, ultimately, student achievement. Our main focus is the basics-to improve reading and math scores to get up to national levels.

"We have a lot of good things going on. We've been one of eight spotlight districts in 2011-12 and 2012-13. This is another way we can improve." 


—Back to School 2013—

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