HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's House of Representatives on Wednesday cast a strong, if symbolic, vote in favor of widening the scope of professional evaluations for tens of thousands of teachers and principals across the state.
By a 199-0 tally, representatives approved a compromise amendment to the bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Aument that balanced many lawmakers' desire to overhaul the system against concerns over how much weight should be given to students' achievement and the best way to measure it.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has targeted the overhaul of the teacher evaluation system as one of his top legislative priorities.
Aument's bill would replace the present evaluation system, which is based entirely on classroom observations by superiors. The proposed new hybrid system would rely on those observations for only half of an educator's rating. The other half would be based on a 16 different measures of student achievement, including standardized test scores, but also classroom activities, quiz scores and school projects.
A final vote on the amended bill could come as early as Thursday.
Aument, R-Lancaster, hailed the compromise as "ground breaking legislation" that is similar to laws in effect in 23 other states and the District of Columbia.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley cited the 99 percent of the present evaluations that are "satisfactory" as evidence that they are ineffective. He applauded the inclusion of standardized tests as a measure of student achievement.
"Real clear measurements that people in the private sector and every other industry have to use will rightly be applied to teachers and administrators," Harley said.
In a brief floor discussion, Rep. Mike Sturla said failing grades for children do not necessarily mean their teachers are failures. He questioned what conclusion could be drawn if 99 percent of the educators get passing grades in the proposed new system.
"What is the new benchmark? We don't know what it is," said Sturla, D-Lancaster.
The proposed new evaluations, which are being tested in an ongoing pilot project that involves more than 100 school districts, would apply not only to teachers and principals in public schools but to teachers in the intermediate units, career and technical schools and charter and cyber-charter schools, according to the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
The PSEA, the state's largest teacher union, supported the compromise amendment because it provides a mixture of student achievement measurements and includes collective-bargaining protections for educators.
"Educators are not afraid of having our performance evaluated," said PSEA President Mike Crossey. "We just want to be certain that our evaluations are based on the wide variety of factors that go into teaching our students. This proposal achieves most of those goals."Tags: