Thrun Evaluation Tracker: Evaluation Appeals and Common Evaluation Mistakes in 2015-16

Since January of this year, our Thrun Evaluation Tracker articles have addressed the performance eval­uation system under Section 1249 of the Revised School Code. As the school year comes to a close, administrators may receive an appeal or protest from a teacher regarding a teacher’s evaluation. Section 1249 provides a narrow appeal procedure for certain teachers. Outlined below are the appeals process and common mistakes to avoid during the evaluation process.

Evaluation Appeals

Section 1249 requires school districts, ISDs, and public school academies to implement a performance evaluation system for teachers that includes an appeal procedure for tenured teachers rated ineffective on their annual year-end evaluation. Section 1249’s appeal procedure does not allow for an appeal by a teacher who is probationary or rated “highly effective,” “effective,” or “minimally effective.”

The teacher may ask the superintendent to conduct a review of the evaluation and evaluation rating. The review request must be submitted in writing within 20 days after the teacher is informed of the “ineffective” rating. Upon receipt of the request, the superintendent must review the evaluation and rating and may make any modifications as appropriate based on his or her review. The performance evalua-tion system shall not allow for a review more than twice in three school years. There is no board-level review under the statute.

School officials should review board policies to determine if there is a broader appeal right in your district. For example, one popular commercial board policy includes a “Public Complaints” policy which provides that “[a]ny person or group, having a legitimate interest in the operations of this District shall have the right to present a request, suggestion, or complaint concerning District personnel, the program, or the operations of the District.”

Arguably, under this policy, a teacher who is not eligible to appeal under Section 1249 may bring an evaluation appeal to the board. School officials should review board policies and administrative procedures to ensure that any similar complaint procedure excludes complaints based on the evaluation or evaluation rating to ensure that the appeal procedure is not broader than legally required.

Common Mistakes

Below are some common mistakes that school officials make while conducting teacher evaluations:

  • Believing that all MDE-approved evaluation tools comply with Section 1249. Section 1249 contains legal requirements that are not included in many of the MDE-approved evaluation tools. School officials should audit their school’s evaluation tool to ensure compliance with all of Section 1249’s requirements.
  • Failing to recognize which teachers need to have an Individualized Development Plan. The Teachers’ Tenure Act requires that all probationary teachers receive an IDP. The Revised School Code requires that all first year probationary teachers and any teacher rated minimally “effective” or “ineffective” on the most recent annual year-end evaluation have an IDP. School officials also may place a teacher rated “effective” or “highly effective” on an IDP to address a performance-related issue or simply to improve performance.
  • Failing to identify performance goals for the next school year in the year-end evaluation. The Revised School Code requires that all annual year-end evaluations include specific performance goals: (1) that will assist in improving the teacher’s effectiveness for the next school year; (2) that are developed by the school officials conducting the evaluation in consultation with the teacher; and (3) that include recommended training, in consultation with the teacher, to assist the teacher with meeting performance goals.
  • Failing to give a teacher notice of his or her deficiencies and ample opportunities to im­prove. It is a “best practice” to provide de­ficiency notices in writing and to repeatedly observe or monitor the teacher’s progress to determine whether the teacher’s performance has improved. In addition, school officials should assist with the teacher’s development by identifying “relevant” coaching, instruction support, and professional development.
  • Failing to do observation “homework.” Sec­tion 1249 requires observers or evaluators to review the teacher’s lesson plan, the state curriculum standard used in the lesson, and pupil engagement in the lesson during an observation. All observations should comply with these review requirements.
  • Failing to conduct complete mid-year progress reports. A mid-year progress report is required for all first-year probationary teachers and any teacher rated “minimally effective” or “ineffective” on his or her most recent year-end evaluation. The mid-year progress report must: (1) gauge the teacher’s improvement from the preceding year, or set a benchmark for first-year teachers; (2) assist the teacher to improve; (3) align with the teacher’s IDP; (4) review the teacher’s perfor­mance based, in part, on student achievement; (5) include specific performance goals for the remainder of the year; and (6) recommend training designed to assist the teacher with meeting goals.

Failing to follow Section 1249’s requirements may undermine a school’s subsequent layoff decision. School officials should review their performance evaluation system this summer to fix any errors that occurred last year to start the 2016-17 school year off right.