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Making the Grade on Teacher Assessments

Reading, writing, arithmetic – and assessments? School administrators find themselves struggling with not just how they can ensure students are meeting their goals in the traditional “Three Rs,” but also how they can make time for states’ newly mandated classroom teacher evaluations.

Beyond “S” and “U”

For many schools, this new evaluation model replaces ones that have been in place for decades. Previously, teachers often were graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with measurement tools varying by location and little attention paid to factors such as test scores and in-class evaluations.

The new system, however, grades teachers on a wider range of criteria, including an increased number of student achievement tests, classroom performance and adherence to new educational standards. With a greater scale for assessment (ranging from four to five performance levels, depending on the state), the new system can provide a more effective tool for guiding teacher development.

The rise of these new teacher assessments can be attributed to the Common Core standards, which have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Intended to better prepare students for college and the workforce, the Common Core standards offer clear, concise guidelines regarding expectations in reading, writing, speaking, listening, language and mathematics.

Often tied to performance reviews, the teacher assessments were developed as a way to increase classroom success through regular observances, feedback and ongoing measurement of student performance. Although some education advocates have praised the change in evaluations, it has been a difficult transition for many school districts that find themselves with limited manpower and time to complete the rigorous assessments.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, classroom assessments can be time-intensive, with some larger schools devoting the equivalent of a month or more to the process. In addition, the extra responsibility of assessments can be overwhelming to an already busy principal or vice principal who must balance individual student needs as well as the growing to-do list that accompanies new reforms.

Coloring Outside the Lines

Although the transition can be difficult, the new system may yield positive results. As many of those in the private sector can attest, linking performance to pay is not a new concept.

In fact, companies in the U.S. have used merit increases and employee evaluations for decades, a practice that often can yield positive outcomes in employee motivation and retention. Furthermore, according to recent research, companies that engage their staff through regular development goals increase employee retention by an average of 41 percent.

In business, organizations that develop reward and talent management programs to support their goals are more than twice as likely to be high-performing companies. Similarly, by creating clearly outlined goals and benchmarks for schools, the new system actually may help increase overall performance, with students reaping the rewards.

Fortunately, schools don’t have to navigate this new evaluation system alone. In fact, many districts are looking to outside human capital management companies, such as Paycom, that offer an integrated talent management solution as part of their payroll and HR product offering.

Paycom’s Talent Management technology eases the workload of school administrators by streamlining the new teacher evaluation process. By leveraging existing workforce data with a robust performance and compensation suite, administrators can comply with the process – keeping teachers in the classroom and administrators on the daily tasks of creating effective schools.