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August 28, 2015

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Education:

New regulations for evaluating Nevada teachers win approval

The Nevada Board of Education unanimously adopted legislative changes to a new teacher evaluation system rolling out this fall.

In 2011, state lawmakers mandated a four-tiered rating system that grades teachers as being "highly effective," "effective," "minimally effective" or "ineffective" based on student test scores and how well teachers model good teaching practices.

Currently, teachers are evaluated by their principals through two classroom observations and are rated either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory."

For the past two years, the Teachers and Leaders Council — a group of 15 educators, parents and policymakers — has been working on how best to put into practice this new evaluation system, including developing a new rubric and methodology for grading teachers. The council’s recommendations were reviewed and enhanced this past legislative session.

The new regulations — recently passed by lawmakers — require that the Nevada Department of Education begin piloting the new evaluation system this fall, with full adoption by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

After reviewing the pilot program and taking feedback, the state school board must finalize the evaluation system by July 2015. The final system will include a "scoring matrix," used to grade teachers based on classroom observations, student test scores and teacher portfolios, self-reflections and goals.

Half of a teachers' evaluation will be based on student achievement data over a period of three years:

• Students' test scores

• Student "growth," or how much teachers were able to improve their students on standardized tests

• "Gaps reduction," or how well teachers were able to minimize the achievement gaps between different student groups, such as special education and minority students.

The other half of a teacher's evaluation will be based on how well they model best teaching practices. This will be done through classroom observations, teacher portfolios and self-reflections.

Teachers rated "effective" and "highly effective" will receive a pre-evaluation conference and two observations by their principals every school year.

Teachers rated "ineffective" and "minimally effective" will receive a pre-evaluation conference and three observations by their principals every school year.

In addition to the classroom observations, principals will review a teacher's work portfolio, which may include photos and video, classroom policies and procedures, certificates, transcripts, student data, reports, journals, examples of student work, newsletters and other documents.

Principals also will review teachers' self-assessments, such as a questionnaire, teaching journal or classroom video. Teachers will reflect on how effective their teaching methods are and what goals they have set for students.

It is still unknown how much it will cost to review thousands of teachers across the state. Principals also will have to be trained on how to evaluate teachers to ensure consistency across the state.

A separate set of evaluations will be developed for teachers in nontested subjects, such as art and physical education. In time, this evaluation system may be used to give bonuses to high-performing educators to incentivize good teaching.

State lawmakers also increased the probationary period for new teachers from one year to three years before they can gain tenure. At any time during the three years, ineffective teachers may be removed.

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