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How Buffalo's new teacher evals will be different

We know Buffalo submitted its 2012-13 teacher eval plan to the state late Monday.

What we don't know is exactly what's in it. And it seems to be anyone's guess at this point when we're going to find out.

Nobody seems inclined to release a copy of the eval plan that Buffalo submitted until the state reviews it and decides whether to approve it -- and it's not clear how soon state officials plan to do that.

Houghton AcademyIn the meantime, though, Phil Rumore offered me some highlights regarding how this eval plan will differ from what Buffalo submitted for 2011-12:

- Teachers will be observed in the classroom twice a year, instead of once.

One of those observations will be unannounced.

That's all in keeping with the state law that went into effect this year. (Rumore a few weeks ago told me he didn't think the 2012-13 eval plan would have to comply with the new law, but apparently he since changed his mind.)

- Student absenteeism will be counted differently.

Under the 2011-12 plan, student absenteeism was evaluated on a schoolwide basis. Not so under the new plan.

This time around, student absenteeism will be "more based on student absenteeism in an individual teacher's class," Rumore said.

- Similarly, under the last eval plan, student growth was based on schoolwide test scores. Not so in the 2012-13 plan.

"Last year, we had to use the whole school's score. We didn't have a pre-test and post-test," Rumore said. "This year, our fundamental change is going to be that we'll have an analysis based on an individual teacher's class. There will be a pre-test at the beginning of the year, then a post-test."

- Teachers in certain grades or subject areas will be exempt from the pre-tests and post-tests. Rumore said that group will include pre-kindergarten teachers, psychologists and social workers. Evaluations for those people will be based on the traditional observations, he said.

While Buffalo met the state's deadline for submitting the new evaluation plan, it seems there are a number of details that the union and the district have not yet ironed out.

For example, the two sides need to decide how much each of the classroom observations will be counted. The new law says there must be two observations, one of them unannounced, but it does not say whether each observation must be counted equally.

"Some districts are adding both and dividing by two -- averaging them. Some districts are counting the announced one as 60 percent (of the observation component of the evaluation), and the unannounced one 40 percent," Rumore said. "We really haven't come to closure on that yet. It's something we have to discuss with the district."

Also still needing to be worked out: rules regarding the unannounced observations.

"We have to negotiate how that's going to work," Rumore said. "We don't want it to be before a holiday or after a holiday."

As soon as a copy of the eval plan is released, we'll have complete details on exactly what it will mean for Buffalo teachers. (Remember, the 2012-13 plan will apply to every teacher in the district.)

Stay tuned.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/MaryPasciak    [email protected]

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | [email protected]


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | [email protected]


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | [email protected]


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | [email protected]

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