GLADSTONE - As part of Monday's Gladstone School Board meeting, board members and district principals discussed the changes to the teacher evaluation tool. The changes were suggested by teachers at a meeting on Aug. 23.
"All the teachers were invited. A good portion of them showed up," said David Ballard, principal of Gladstone Junior High. Teachers and principals met as a group and then broke into smaller groups to further discuss their issues with the evaluation tool.
A major concern for teachers was the ambiguous language of the teacher dress code. Teachers who did not fit the dress code were evaluated lower than those that did, however, many did not know why.
"There's a lot of things in the teacher evaluation tool I thought I would hear about from people with concerns," said Board Trustee Bill Milligan. "Surprisingly, the biggest thing I heard from various sources was the dress code, and how it wasn't clearly defined in their eyes."
Principals echoed this sentiment, and explained that teachers had suggested changing the evaluation criteria to be closer to the system used by Escanaba Public Schools.
"They had asked to add a category to the attire based off another evaluation system from Escanaba," said Ballard. "One of the categories now is 'professionalism and attire.'"
The change is designed to remove discrepancies between the board policy of teachers dressing appropriately to the discipline and the evaluation system, which described doing so as "minimally effective."
According to Ballard, he and other principals had been consistent in how they evaluated the attire of teachers from year to year, however, the system needed to be re-evaluated.
Adding professionalism to the attire section of the evaluation tool does not remove the need for teachers to dress appropriately, but allows for more flexibility.
"I believe my thought behind that is, 'I might dress down a little bit but I am helpful above and beyond in every category throughout the building so that will compensate then in some areas,'" said Ballard.
Focusing on professionalism also makes the evaluations easier on the principals. "Dave and I were having a heck of a time judging - I guess would be the word to use - female dress," said Brady Downey, Gladstone High School principal, who added that the focus was more about being professional.
Other concerns raised at the Aug. 23 meeting included abolishing the percentages or scores used to rate teachers. Teachers preferred categories such as highly effective, effective, minimally effective, and ineffective.
Changes to wording were also suggested to clarify evaluation criteria about technology use, "professional development," and "service to the profession."
Because of the changes made to the evaluation tool, some teachers felt that evaluation comparisons between years were invalid. Principals admitted that the system was still a work in progress and the more changes were possible.
Overall, the sentiment from administrators was positive. "I thought it went well and I hope the other teachers felt the same when they walked away," said Ballard.