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Here is to a new school year | GUEST OPINION
Between Sept. 4 and Sept. 9, nearly 11,000 — bright eyed, excited and energetic students appeared in our classrooms ready to learn! Each school year brings a new spark of hope, vision, and excitement of what the year may bring. As we begin this year, I wish the greatest success for all of our students, and thank our families, community members, partners, taxpayers and staff members who make all of this possible.
The past school year brought its share of change and challenges yet we were able to accomplish so much. Our staff members are fully dedicated to raising student achievement. Their tireless work is commendable. Cascade Elementary showed significant gains in the percentage of students with special needs and bilingual students meeting math standard in grades 3 and 4, Quil Ceda and Tulalip Elementary Schools showed gains in both reading and math, and The Academy of Construction and Engineering High School showed gains in writing. These are just a few of the bright spots across the district.
A major emphasis of our work this year will be in understanding and implementing our new teacher and principal evaluation systems, nicknamed “TPEP” (Teacher and Principal Evaluation Pilot). The state of Washington recently passed a law to create a new evaluation system that requires a much more specific set of standards and expectations for teacher and principal performance. It requires many more hours of observation and meeting time for principals with teachers, as well as principals with their own supervisors. It also factors in student growth data into the evaluation as a legal mandate.
As you may imagine, this is a significant change to the evaluation process, and therefore a change to “business as usual” for the role of the principal. Our principals currently manage all aspects of the daily operations of their school buildings and lead learning improvement efforts and professional development for staff. With this new evaluation system, you may see less of them in lunchroom supervision or out at the buses in the afternoon. They may instead be in classrooms observing teachers, or meeting and conferring with teachers concerning student learning. You may then see other adults assuming some of those other duties. Each principal will be working with the district and with staff to determine support needed to ensure that we have safe and orderly schools. This commitment does not change. However, we want you to know that this is happening as the principal’s shift their roles. We will all be learning together how to make these transitions, and ensure the same level of quality for our students along the way.
Although the legislature implemented this law and new system, a tremendous amount of detail was left up to each of the 295 school districts in our state to work out at the local level. Therefore, we have worked together with our teachers, principals and district leaders to create a plan to address the details of this new system. During the past year, staff worked on the beginning stages of implementing this new evaluation process. This work carries on this year as more than a third of our teachers received training with their principals in August, and will continue to implement the process over the course of the 2013-14 school year. By 2015-16, all classroom teachers and principals will be evaluated using this new system. If you would like more information about this new system, go to http://tpep-wa.org/about-tpep/faqs/#background, or http://tpep-wa.org/the-model.
This kind of dramatic change is never easy. It is difficult for any system to change, and sometimes we are impatient with ourselves. We like to have everything ‘perfect’ before we implement something. However, in our world of rapid change, and with current learning needs of our students to be fully equipped for this world, we cannot wait. As I write this, I am reminded of the following quote by Max Dupree when I look at our work this year, “We cannot become who we want to be by remaining who we are.” Thank you in advance for your support and understanding as we “become who we want to be” — and improve our work and effectiveness on behalf of every one of our students. Because, in the end, it is all about them.
All of the best to each of you.
Dr. Becky Berg is the Superintendent of Marysville Schools. You can reach Dr. Berg via email at email@example.com or by calling 360-653-0800.