Districts’ Evaluations Untrustworthy, Ed Secretary Says

HARRISBURG PA – Pennsylvania’s education secretary says he has “serious” doubts about the accuracy of employee evaluations conducted statewide by school districts and other education agencies, which rated the performance of 99.4 percent of their teachers as “satisfactory” even though a quarter or more of state students score below proficiency levels in reading or math.
The Pottstown, Spring-Ford Area, and Pottsgrove school districts were among those that generally gave teachers overall high marks for performance during the 2009-2010 school year, the ratings for which were released last Wednesday (June 8, 2011).

At the same time, a significant portion of their students weren’t being properly educated, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis blasted.

The results “raise serious concerns about the quality of the evaluation system and whether it has any relevance to what happens in the classroom,” Tomalis said. The statistics are “a clear indication that our current evaluation system is in major need of change,” he added.

Across all seven Pottstown schools, its summary showed,

  • 91.2 percent or 217 of 238 teachers were rated satisfactory by administrators.
  • Two other teachers, representing 0.8 percent, were rated “satisfactory with improvement needed;”
  • 18 teachers, or 7.6 percent, were not rated; and
  • Only one teacher – a unidentified employee at Pottstown Middle School representing 0.4 percent – was considered “unsatisfactory.”
  • For the same period, Pottstown Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores show, 28.6 percent of its students only met or fell below basic math skills levels, and 35.2 percent only met or fell below basic reading skills levels.

Across all 12 Spring-Ford schools, its summary showed,

  • 99 percent or 572 of 578 teachers were rated satisfactory.
  • Six other teachers, representing 1 percent, were not rated.
  • Not a single teacher in Spring-Ford’s employ during the 2009-2010 year was considered unsatisfactory.
  • For the same period, according to Spring-Ford’s PSSA scores, 8.5 percent of its students only met or fell below basic math skills levels, and 13.3 percent only met or fell below basic reading skills levels.

Across all five Pottsgrove schools during 2009-2010, according to a summary of its evaluations,

  • 96.2 percent or 229 of 238 employed teachers were rated satisfactory.
  • Eight teachers, or 3.4 percent, were not rated for various reasons.
  • Only one teacher – an unidentified employee at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School who represented 0.4 percent of the district’s entire instructional workforce – was deemed “unsatisfactory.”
  • During the same year, according to its PSSA scores, 21.5 percent of Pottsgrove students only met or fell below basic math skills levels, and 26.7 percent only met or fell below basic reading skills levels.

“The current system makes it extremely difficult to be rated as unsatisfactory,” Tomalis charged. A new evaluation system has been proposed, and could be in place by the 2012-2013 school year.