BY SARAH ELMS
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Educators across the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District soon will be evaluated under new guidelines.
Administrators are confident it’s the right choice, but many teachers express a sense of being overwhelmed. Both sides agree it’s a big change.
The shift stems from July 2013 recommendations to the state legislature by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The council was established in June 2011 to research evaluation tools as part of the legislature’s teacher tenure reform efforts.
The experts narrowed potential evaluation models to four over the course of 18 months and recommended all schools in Michigan choose one of the four to use: either Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching; The Thoughtful Classroom; 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning; or the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model.
TBAISD administrators did their own research and decided Robert Marzano’s model would be the best fit for all of the 16 public school districts they encompass, TBAISD Superintendent Mike Hill said.
TBAISD Assistant Superintendent for General and Career and Technical Education Jason Jeffrey said the Marzano model stood out because the goals of teachers, principals and administrators all work in tandem under the model’s formula, rather than each group having its own system.
“The success of one group of the team is required to support the success of the other components,” Jeffrey said. “We just needed that alignment, and Marzano is the only one that had that.”
The research-based model identifies direct cause-and-effect relationships between teaching practices and student achievement. It is meant to foster incremental growth rather than measure compliance, and it’s designed to be fair across all schools and grade levels.
“It’s about evaluation, but more importantly, it’s about changing the way that we teach and changing the way that we operate our schools so that we can increase student performance,” Jeffrey said. “That’s the bottom line here.”
Jeffrey said he’s confident all schools in the ISD will jump on board. He estimates it will take at least three years to fully implement the new standards.
“Daunting” is the word Traverse City Education Association President and Traverse City East Middle School teacher Jeff Leonhardt used to describe the changes.
“While our current evaluation system does have some of the aspects, I’d say Marzano is way more in-depth and a lot more involved. It’s going to be a lot of work for teachers to be prepared for the Marzano evaluation,” he said.
Erin Ryan is part of the Marzano teacher leadership team at Traverse City Central High School. She acknowledged the challenge of getting all educators to a comfortable level of understanding the new system, but said its focus on teachers is what will make it succeed.
“It’s very thoughtful and very intentional on how we plan our units in the curriculum. It’s helped me to focus on establishing very concrete goals,” Ryan said. “What Marzano is doing is providing support for the teachers to be the best we can be for our school.”
Leonhardt is cautious to be too optimistic, but he said many teachers aren’t happy with the current evaluation model being used.
Marzano could be the answer local schools are looking for, even if it is a big change.
“The devil’s in the details,” Leonhardt said. “Who knows what will happen.”