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SD schools could receive flexibility on teacher evaluations

PIERRE — A proposed change in state rules would allow South Dakota school districts to use their own processes for evaluating teachers’ performances, rather than following the standard model already established by the state Board of Education.

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Under the plan, a school district’s system would need to align with the Danielson framework that was previously adopted by the state board and would need to include data on student growth as a significant factor. Those requirements would take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

The proposed rules call for each teacher who is evaluated to receive a professional practice rating and a student growth rating. Those will be combined into one effectiveness rating: below expectations, meets expectations or above expectations.

As part of the changes, the state board intends to create a new, separate article in its rules specifically for teacher performance standards and evaluations. Those currently are covered in rules that deal primarily with teacher conduct.

School districts seeking flexibility in their evaluation processes would need to seek permission from the state Department of Education by Jan. 31 prior to the school year for which the alternative evaluation model is sought. The department would face an April 1 deadline to decide.

The board plans a public hearing Oct. 1 on the changes. The hearing is at Cedar Shore Resort at Oacoma starting at 3:30 p.m. Central. The board is meeting there as part of the annual statewide summit on Indian education.

Board president Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis, said Friday he expects some school districts will adapt the state template or a modification of it, while others will keep what they’re already using.

The Legislature adopted a state law in 2010 requiring teacher evaluations. Under the law, teachers in their first, second and third years after certification must be evaluated annually.

Starting with year four, they must be evaluated every other year.

The state board, in turn, chose the Danielson framework and last year set the 2014-15 school year to begin using it. Now the board wants to provide flexibility, too.