This fall, principals will likely be harder to find in their offices; and district administrators are not as likely to be available for drop-in visits.
The reason, according to a press release issued by Belmont Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston, is that they will be regularly in classrooms, working with educators – cooperatively and collegially – to improve the quality of instruction.
And while administrators and other educators will be available to meet parents, students and residents as wish and need arise, said Kingston, such meetings will now need to be planned and scheduled "a bit more in advance than has traditionally been the case."
As part of the requirements in the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 2010, the Belmont Public Schools are adopting the new Massachusetts Educator Appraisal System, replacing a rather artificial and occasional appraisal models that existed in most districts.
The new system resides in a comprehensive set of rubrics: descriptive sets of expectations about what proficient instruction looks like in a classroom, what a proficient educational leader is expected to do and what specialists like nurses and counselors need to demonstrate.
All educators begin what will be a two-year formal review with a self-reflection about their practice in light of the rubric for the kind of position each holds.
Then, in consultation with the assigned supervisor, each educator – whether teacher, principal or superintendent – will define an annual plan that rests upon at least a personal professional practice goal and a student learning goal centered upon improved instruction.
During the course of a school year, evaluators will make short, regular visits to classrooms and follow up the visits with brief conversations about observed practices, strengths, areas for improvement and progress towards attainment of goals. The evaluators will provide mid-cycle “formative” written performance assessments as well as end-of-cycle “summative” evaluations. The full two-year cycle then begins anew.
What the new system encourages is greater use of educational administrators as instructional leaders and greater collegial cultures within the schools.
Belmont’s own Professional Learning Teams for staff development offer an excellent means for all educators to realize their negotiated goals. Additional benchmarks and measures will enter the system as the district and state define what those markers are.
A joint oversight team made up of administrators and appointees of the Belmont Education Association – the educator's union representative – will assess the implementation of the new system, address issues or concerns as they arise, and advise about additional training and support for all educators to ensure that the system is successful.
A comprehensive description of the model system, including the rubrics for teachers, administrators, superintendents, and specialists, is available at the website of the Massachusetts Department Elementary and Secondary Education.