Update to Educator Effectiveness Model causes tension

by Abby Lynn Harvey of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – A lengthy, and at some points heated, discussion was prompted by a proposed adjustment to the Educator Effectiveness and Employee Compensation Model during Thursday evening’s meeting of the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School Board.

The model was adopted by the board last April to replace the “step and lane” model which based salary on years of experience and professional development. That model had several weaknesses, including a lack of accountability for quality instruction, automatic movement to pay increases which were not performance-based, no allowance for a decreases in pay, no focus on improving education, and no link to an evaluation model.

The new model was chosen due to an ease of administration, while still focusing on student achievement, professionalism and collaboration. Movement forward or backward on the pay scale is directly connected to performance evaluations and student achievement.

The model also allows for pay decreases or freezes if staff is not performing to the standards of the district.

For the past several months District Administer Ann Buechel-Haack, high school principal Jim Brown, and elementary/ middle school principal Debbie Hammann have been undergoing extensive training in the use of performance matrices to evaluate teachers.

In doing so, it has been determined that some of the qualifications required to reach the Advanced Phases I and II and Master levels of effectiveness are too challenging, said Buechel-Haack.

The levels of effectiveness are initial, progressing, professional advanced and master. Buechel-Haack, B,rown and Hammann have been working to place the district’s teachers into the new levels.

“What we noticed is, when we were placing people, and this is just half-way through the year, is that our ‘initial’ ‘progressing’ and ‘professional,’ they’re turning out where we think they would be, or should be based on their performance,” Buechel- Haack said, going on to state the ‘advanced’ and ‘masters’ levels didn’t seem to be lining up as well.

“If you’re going to do it with fidelity, the bar is much higher than what we had first envisioned,” she said.

The recommended changes were as follows:

For the Advanced Educator Phase I – change criteria from “distinguished in at least three areas” to “distinguished in least two areas.”

For the Advanced Educator Phase II – change criteria from “distinguished in at least four areas” to “distinguished in at least three areas.”

For Master Educator – change from “distinguished in at least five areas” to “distinguished in at least four areas.”

The proposed changes did not sit well with some board members.

“Do we want the distinguished to be distinguished or do we want to make sure everyone can become distinguished,” said board member Scott Heinig, who expressed that he believed the levels should not be changed and questioned the validity of this form of evaluation.

Brown noted the extensive training he, Hammann and Buechel-Haack had gone through and defended the proposed changes.

“What I would ask of you is to have faith in people that are in the positions to evaluate [the teachers] that we will put people in distinguished if they are distinguished,” he said.

The timing of the proposed changes was also called into questioned, as the model hadn’t gone through a full year.

“We all accepted that we were putting in a new program,” Heinig said. “We all accepted the foundation for it. We were led to believe at that time that this was the absolute best model to start with and we would make changes after.”

He went on to state that if the standards keep changing as a model is put in place, a baseline is never developed.

Board member Keith Ruh also disagreed with the changes, questioning how often these changes may be taking place.

“We can change that criteria every few years after we use the model, but I completely agree where [Heinig] is coming from,” Ruh said.

The changes passed, with Ruh and Heinig voting against the measure and Scott Starnitcky absent.

“We want to set high goals for out teachers, but also want them to be attainable,” said Buechel-Haack.

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