Proposed bill would suspend teacher appraisals, which are based partly on student performance

Betsy PriceEducation, Headlines, Schools

A bill doing to the Senate education committee Wednesday would pause a teacher evaluation system.

A bill doing to the Senate education committee Wednesday would pause a Delaware teacher evaluation system.


A Delaware Senate bill would suspend for a year the teacher appraisal program and replace it with an observation program designed to create effective online and hybrid teaching.

Both the state Department of Education and Delaware State Education Association are working with draft bill sponsors Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark; Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Brandywine West and Rep. Bill Bush, D-Dover West, on the bill’s language.

It focuses on the Delaware Performance Appraisal System II, which is used to judge teacher effectiveness. That system takes into account a student’s growth, which can include test scores, but also include something like students who are behind grade level closing the gap.

After a full year of students being mostly out of the classroom, many people are talking about how that’s going to affect student performance and proficiency rates.

The bill to pause the evaluation system comes as schools, teachers and students struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. With surges in positive cases, it’s meant many students are learning only online or in a hybrid manner with some days in class and some days online. Some Delaware schools have reported that only a fraction of their students are online when they should be.

While Gov. John Carney has argued to keep in-person classes as much as possible, the DSEA — essentially a teacher’s union — has fought to keep classes online as much as possible, especially during surges in the number of positive cases.

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“Educators are in survival mode,” said DSEA President Stephanie Ingram in a Thursday DSEA press release about the bill. “They need support and meaningful feedback. What they don’t need is to have their permanent record adversely effected by these temporary and challenging circumstances. Senate Bill 42 does just that by pausing these official evaluations and making them supportive and beneficial to the educators and the students.”

Instead of evaluations, the bill suggests “administrators and credentialed observers shall continually observe educators to provide coaching and support related to hybrid and remote learning practices.”

Alison May, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said working with the sponsors is “an on-going conversation.”

Ingram said, “Our educators have been working around the clock to learn new ways to keep their students continue learning no matter the environment that they are learning in.  They are teaching students who are at home while simultaneously teaching cohorts of students in their classrooms. And, they are learning new technologies and programs to better reach their students during these unique educational circumstances.”

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The best practices the bill wants to see would include relationship building, student engagement in learning, standards-aligned curriculum learning and implementation, according to the bill.

Those observations should be used to determine professional development needs that support educators’ growth and development and establish a shared understanding of best practices
in remote or hybrid instruction, the proposal said.

The bill also says any evidence collected and feedback provided during teacher check-ins may not be used as part of the evaluation cycle.

The bill would allow an educator who has an emergency certificate or is currently in an Alternative Routes to Certification program to elect to complete a summative evaluation with the educator’s administrator in order to meet certification and extension requirements.

Senate Bill 42 was introduced by Townsend and now includes the leadership of both Democratic Caucus and the chairs of the Education Committees in both the House and Senate. the DSEA press release said.

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The legislation is headed to the House Education Committee for consideration Wednesday.

“Whether they are teaching remotely or in a hybrid format, educators across this state are working tirelessly to provide our children with the best education possible during this pandemic,” Townsend said the DSEA press release. “The current educator evaluation system is insufficient to measure their efforts and simply unfair, especially in the middle of a pandemic. This legislation will ensure our educators are instead getting the feedback and support they need to continue overcoming the incredible challenges they face each and every day.”

House Education Chair Kim Williams, D-Newport, in the DSEA press release thanked state educators for all they’ve done, and fellow legislators for supporting the “much needed” legislation.

“SB 42 is just one way that legislators can step up and support our educators during these stressful times,” Williams said. “The DPAS tools will still be there, and educators will receive the support they need, but there is no simple way to hold evaluations when we are in both remote and hybrid models of instruction.  Pausing this portion of DPAS will allow more time for administrators and educators to focus their time on student needs, which should be everyone’s top priority right now.”

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