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Stakeholder Involvement Needed When Developing Evaluation Systems

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Douglas Hodum is a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow from Maine. He teaches high school biology in the Mt. Blue Regional School District.

Teacher evaluation is one of the hottest, and most debated, topics within education today. My school district is following the state mandate requiring us to develop a pilot teacher evaluation system by the end of the current school year (2013-2014). This expectation meshes nicely with my Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellowship.

I expressed my interest in participating in the development of the teacher evaluation system and also a desire to include other teachers to my now former superintendent and current assistant superintendent. I was fortunate to be received so warmly and enthusiastically. My assistant superintendent, a former teacher in this district, indicated she would be leading that work and would very much like me to help facilitate that work.

Since that initial, informal conversation at the concession stand at a basketball game, we began the task of pulling together a committee of all vested stakeholders by setting up three informational meetings late last spring at different times of the day in order to try to accommodate varied schedules that teachers, administrators and members of the public might have. I approached a few colleagues at the high school where I work and mentioned how important the work is and how I would like them to be a part of it. After holding those meetings, we had more than two dozen potential committee members.

At our first meeting of the committee this year, just two weeks ago, we had eleven people in attendance. That meeting allowed us to discuss best practices for successful meetings as well as goals for the committee and priorities that we expect the teacher evaluation system to address. Unfortunately, as I looked around the room and at the list of members unable to attend, I noticed that two of our elementary schools were not represented. That gap could mean a lack of communication and understanding of the work as it is being done. I contacted the building representative for the union and asked him for names of possible committee members. Both of those identified teachers, one veteran and one novice, have decided to attend our next meeting.

The addition of those two teachers will help round out this committee, which currently consists of the assistant superintendent, who is co-facilitating with me, the superintendent, three building administrators, one parent and more than a dozen teachers from all levels of education from kindergarten to high school. While this composition is a wonderful mix and does give a sense of coverage, I know that there are some gaps in the membership, such as teachers of non-tested subject areas. I hope to reach out to some of those teachers and engage them in the discussion.

When I reported to someone from the state level of the union of the work we are doing, he reminded me that the members of the committee are to be union approved (hinting that they should be members). This is where I differ from the state level of the union. I want engaged teachers, regardless of their union affiliation or political preferences. This committee is doing important work that all stakeholders should be represented and participating in, not just the ones that are toeing the union line.

At one of the initial informational meetings, a teacher in the group asked if the assistant superintendent was representing the district and I the union. Both of us, the assistant superintendent and I, turned and said, "No." We are both vested in this endeavor. As we move forward, I am hopeful that more stakeholders will join the discussion.

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